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SPEECHES 









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SPEECHES BY 
RICHARD COBDEN, M.P. 


The Life of Richard Cobden. By the Right 
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Cobden as a Citizen. A Chapter in Man¬ 
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SPEECHES ON QUESTIONS 
OF PUBLIC POLICY BY 
RICHARD COBDEN, M.P. 


Edited by JOHN BRIGHT & J. E. THOROLD ROGERS 
WITH A PREFACE AND APPRECIATION BY J. E. 
THOROLD ROGERS AND AN APPRECIATION 
BY GOLDWIN SMITH. 


IN TWO VOLUMES. 

VOL. II. 


T. FISHER UNWIN: LONDON, ADELPHI TERRACE 
LEIPSIC, INSELSTRASSE 20. MCMVIII 


Tirsi Edition , 1870. 
Secotid Edition , 1878. 
Reprinted 1880, 1903. 
Third Edition , 1908. 


CONTENTS OF VOL. II. 


WAR. 

I. Russian War. —House of Commons, December 22, 1854 

II. Russian War. —House of Commons, June 5, 1855 . 

III. Russian War. —Manchester, March 18, 1857 . 

I. American War.' —House of Commons, April 24, 1863 

II. American War. —Rochdale, November 24, 1863 

China War .—House of Commons, February 26, 1857 

FOREIGN POLICY. 

I. House of Commons, June 12, 1849 .... 

II. London, October 8, 1849 ..... 

III. London, January 18, 1850 ..... 

IV. House of Commons, June 28, 1850 .... 

V. Rochdale, June 6, 1861 . 

VI. House of Commons, August I, 1862 

VII. Manchester, October 25, 1862 .... 

VIII. Rochdale, October 29, 1862 ..... 

IX. Rochdale, November 23, 1864 .... 

INDIA. 

House of Commons, June 27, 1853 

PEACE. 

I. Wrexham, November 14, 1850 .... 

II. Manchester, January 27, 1853 . 

POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 

Manchester, January 23, 1851 

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. 

I. House of Commons, July 6, 1848 .... 

II. London, November 26, 1849 ..... 

III. Manchester, December 4, 1851 

IV. Rochdale, August 17, 1839. 

V. Rochdale, August 18, 1859. 

EDUCATION. 

I. Manchester, January 22, 1851. 

II. House of Commons, May 22, 1851 .... 

III. Manchester, December 1, 1851 .... 

IV. Barnsley, October 25, 1833 

Index . . . . . 


I'Acm 

. 310 

. 321 

• 337 

• 35 ° 

• 359 

• 370 


389 

399 

405 


4 i 5 

425 

438 

449 

462 


479 


• 497 

• 509 
. 320 

• S 3 o 


540 

549 

558 

563 

578 


. 589 

. . 398 

. . 604 

. . 611 

.619 to 662 


141691 
















RUSSIAN WAR. 


i. 

HOUSE OF COMMONS, DECEMBER 22, 1854. 


[On Dec. 12, the Duke of Newcastle (War Secretary), introduced a Bill, the object of 
which was to raise a force of 15,000 foreigners, who were to be drilled in this country. 
The Bill was opposed by the Conservative party, as impolitic and dangerous, but was 
finally carried, with very little alteration, by 38 votes, on Dec. 22 (163 to 135). Little 
more than a month after this, the Aberdeen Government resigned, in consequence of 
an adverse vote of the House of Commons on Mr. Roebuck's motion of Jan. 29.] 


If I ask permission to enlarge a little 
the scope of our discussion, I have, at 
all events, this excuse, that the subject- 
matter more technically before the 
House has been very ably and fully 
discussed. There is another reason why 
the question may be viewed in a more 
general way, as affecting the conduct of 
the Government in carrying on the war 
and conducting negotiations, namely, 
that we have heard several hon. Mem¬ 
bers publicly declare that they refuse to 
entertain the matter now before the 
House on its merits, but persist in voting, 
in respect to it, contrary to their own 
opinions, and simply as a question of 
confidence in the Government. I must 
say, among all the evils which I attach 
to a state of war, not the least consider¬ 
able is, that it has so demoralising a 
tendency as this on the representative 
system. We are called on to give votes 
contrary to our conscience, and to allow 
those votes to be recorded where the 
explanation would not often appear to 
account for them. It was stated the 
other night, by the noble Lord (John 
Russell) the Member for the City of 
London, that proposals for peace had 


been made on the part of Russia, through 
Vienna, upon certain bases, which have 
been pretty frequently before the world 
under the term of the ‘ Four Points.’ 
Now, I wish to draw attention to that 
subject; but, before I do so, let me 
premise, that I do not intend to say one 
word with respect to the origin of this 
unhappy war. I intend to start from 
the situation in which we now find 
ourselves, and I think it behoves this 
House to express an opinion upon that 
situation. 

I avow myself in favour of peace on 
the terms announced by Her Majesty’s 
Ministers. At all events, hon. Members 
will see the absolute necessity, if the 
war is to go on, and if we are to have a 
war of invasion by land against Russia, of 
carrying it on in a different spirit and on 
a different scale from that in which the 
operations have hitherto been conducted. 
I think both sides of the House occupy 
common ground in this respect; for we 
shall all recognise the propriety and 
necessity of discussing this important 
and critical question. Before I offer an 
opinion on the desirability of concluding 
peace on these four points, it will be 



DEC. 22, 1854. 


RUSSIAN WAR. I. 


3 ii 


necessary to ask, what was the object 
contemplated by the war? I merely 
ask this as a matter of fact, and not 
with a view of arguing the question. It 
has been one of my difficulties, in arguing 
this question out of doors with friends 
or strangers, that I rarely find any 
intelligible agreement as to the object 
of the war. I have met with very 
respectable and well-educated men, who 
have told me that the object of the war 
was to open the Black Sea to all 
merchant-vessels. That, certainly, could 
not be the object, for the Black Sea was 
already as free to all merchant-vessels 
as the Baltic. I have met with officers 
who said that the object was to open 
the Danube, and to allow the ships of all 
nations to go up that river. The object, 
certainly, could not be that, for the 
traffic in the Danube has, during the 
last twenty years, multiplied nearly ten¬ 
fold, and the ships of all nations have 
free access there. I have heard it stated 
and applauded at public meetings, that 
we are at war because we have a treaty 
with the Sultan, binding us to defend 
the integrity and independence of his 
empire. I remember that, at a most 
excited public meeting at Leicester, the 
first resolution, moved by a very intelli¬ 
gent gentleman, declared that we were 
bound by the most solemn treaties with 
the Sultan to defend the integrity and 
independence of the Turkish empire. 
Now, Lord Aberdeen has even ostenta¬ 
tiously announced in the House of Lords 
—for the instruction, I suppose, of such 
gentlemen as I have referred to—that 
we had no treaty before the present war 
binding us to defend the Sultan or his 
dominions. Another and greater cause 
of the popularity of the war out of doors 
has been, no doubt, the idea that it is 
for the freedom and independence of 
nations. There has been a strong feeling 
that Russia has not only absorbed and 
oppressed certain nationalities, but is the 
prime agent by which Austria perpetu¬ 
ates her dominion over communities 
averse to her rule. I should say that 
this class was fairly represented by my 
lamented and noble Friend the late 


Member for Marylebone, from whom I 
differed entirely in reference to his views 
on the question of interference with 
foreign countries, but for whose private 
virtues and disinterested conduct and 
boundless generosity I have always 
entertained the greatest veneration and 
respect. The late Lord Dudley Stuart 
for twenty years fairly represented the 
popular feeling out of doors, which 
was directed especially against the Em¬ 
peror of Russia, and the popular sym¬ 
pathies, which were centred mainly on 
those territories which lie contiguous 
to the Russian empire. I used some¬ 
times to tell that noble Lord, jocularly, 
that his sympathies were geographical 
—that they extended to all countries, 
from the Baltic to the Black Sea, 
bordering on Russia—that if the Poles, 
Hungarians, Moldavians, or Walla- 
chians were in trouble or distress, he 
was sure to be, in this House, the re¬ 
presentative of their wrongs ; or if any 
unhappy individuals from those countries 
were refugees from oppression in this 
country, they were sure to go instantly 
to him for relief and protection. Lord 
Dudley Stuart represented a great 
amount of public sympathy in this 
country with respect to nationalities, as 
it is termed; but I ask, whether the 
ground on which the public impression 
is founded—that we are going to war to 
aid the Poles, Hungarians, Moldavians, 
or Wallachians—has not been entirely 
delusive; and whether it may not be 
ranked with the other notions about 
opening the Black Sea, or a treaty with 
the Sultan, and about the Danube not 
being free to the flags of all nations ? 

I ask, whether all these grounds have 
not been equally delusive ? The first 
three grounds never had an existence at 
all; and, as to setting up oppressed 
nationalities, the Government certainly 
never intended to go to war for that 
object. To set myself right with those 
hon. Gentlemen who profess to have 
great regard for liberty everywhere, I 
beg to state that I yield to no one in 
sympathy for those who are struggling 
for freedom in any part of the world ; 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


DEC. 32, 


3 12 

but I will never sanction an interference 
which shall go to establish this or that 
nationality by force of arms, because 
that invades a principle which I wish 
to carry out in the other direction—the 
prevention of all foreign interference 
with nationalities for the sake of putting 
them down. Therefore, while I respect 
the motives of those gentlemen, I cannot 
act with them. This admission, how¬ 
ever, I freely make, that, were it likely 
to advance the cause of liberty, of 
constitutional freedom, and national 
independence, it would be a great in¬ 
ducement to me to acquiesce in the war, 
or, at all events, I should see in it some¬ 
thing like a compensation for the multi¬ 
plied evils which attend a state of war. 

And now we come to what is called 
the statesman’s ground for this war: 
which is, that it is undertaken to de¬ 
fend the Turkish empire against the 
encroachments of Russia—as a part of 
the scheme, in fact, for keeping the 
several States of Europe within those 
limits in which they are at present cir¬ 
cumscribed. This has been stated as a 
ground for carrying on the present war 
with Russia; but, I must say, this view 
of the case has been very much mixed up 
with magniloquent phraseology, which 
has tended greatly to embarrass the 
question. The noble Lord the Member 
for the City of London was the first, I 
think, to commence these magniloquent 
phrases, in a speech at Greenock about 
last August twelvemonths, in which he 
spoke of our duties to mankind, and to 
the whole world; and he has often 
talked since of this war as one intended 
to protect the liberties of all Europe and 
of the civilised world. I remember, 
too, the phrases which the noble Lord 
made use of at a City meeting, where he 
spoke of our being ‘ engaged in a just 
and necessary war, for no immediate 
advantage, but for the defence of our 
ancient ally, and for the maintenance of 
the independence of Europe.’ Well, I 
have a word to say to the noble Lord on 
that subject. Now, we are placed to the 
extreme west of a continent, numbering 
some 200,000,000 inhabitants ; and the 


theory is, that there is great danger from 
agrowing eastern Power, whicli threatens 
to overrun the Continent, to inflict upon 
it another deluge like that of the Goths 
and Vandals, and to eclipse the light of 
civilisation in the darkness of barbarism. 
But, if that theory be correct, does it 
not behove the people of the Continent 
to take some part in pushing back that 
deluge of barbarism ? I presume it is 
not intended that England should be 
the Anacharsis Clootz of Europe; but 
that, at all events, if we are to fight for 
everybody, those, at least, who are in 
the greatest danger, will join with us in 
resisting the common enemy. I am con¬ 
vinced, however, that all this declam¬ 
ation about the independence of Europe 
and the defence of civilisation will by- 
and-by disappear. I take it for granted, 
then, that the statesman’s object in this 
war is to defend Turkey against the 
encroachments of Russia, and so to set a 
barrier against the aggressive ambition 
of that great empire. That is the lan¬ 
guage of the Queen’s Speech. But have 
we not accomplished that object? I 
would ask, have we not arrived at that 
point? Have we not effected all that 
was proposed in the Queen’s Speech? 
Russia is now no longer within the 
Turkish territory; she has renounced all 
idea of invading Turkey; and now, as 
we are told by the noble Lord, there 
have been put forward certain proposals 
from Russia, which are to serve as the 
bases of peace. 

What are those proposals ? In the 
first place, there is to be a joint protect¬ 
orate over the Christians by the five 
great Powers; there is to be a joint 
guarantee for the rights and privileges 
of the Principalities; there is to be a 
revision of the rule laid down in 1841 
with regard to the entrance of ships-of- 
war into the Bosphorus, and the Danube 
is to be free to all nations. These are 
the propositions that are made for peace, 
as we are told by the noble Lord ; and 
it is competent for us, I think, as a 
House of Commons, to offer an opinion 
as to the desirability of a treaty on those 
terms. 



RUSSIAN WAR. I. 


r8 S 4- 

My first reason for urging that we 
'jhould entertain those proposals is, that 
we are told that Austria and Prussia 
have agreed to them. Those two Powers 
are more interested in this quarrel than 
England and France can be. Upon 
that subject I will quote the words of the 
noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, 
uttered in February last. The noble 
Lord said,— 

'We know that Austria and Prussia had 
an interest in the matter more direct and 
greater than had either France or England. 
To Austria and Prussia it is a vital matter 
—a matter of existence—because, if Russia 
were either to appropriate any large portion 
of the Turkish territory, or even to reduce 
Turkey to the condition of a mere depend¬ 
ent State, it must be manifest to any man 
who casts a glance over the map of Europe, 
and who looks at the geographical position 
of these two Powers with regard to Russia 
and Turkey, that any considerable acces¬ 
sion of power on the part of Russia in that 
quarter must be fatal to the independence 
of action of both Austria and Prussia.' 

I entirely concur with the noble Lord 
in his view of the interest which Austria 
and Prussia have in this quarrel, and 
what I want to ask is this—Why should 
we seek greater guarantees and stricter 
engagements from Russia than those 
with which Austria and Prussia are con¬ 
tent? They lie on the frontier of this 
great empire, and they have more to fear 
from its power than we can have; no 
Russian invasion can touch us until it 
has passed over them; and is it likely, 
if we fear, as we say we do, that West¬ 
ern Europe will be overrun by Russian 
barbarism—is it likely, I say, that since 
Austria and Prussia will be the first to 
suffer, they will not be as sensible to that 
danger as we can be ? Ought we not 
rather to take it as a proof that we have 
somewhat exaggerated the danger which 
threatens Western Europe, when we find 
that Austria and Prussia are not so alarm¬ 
ed at it as we are ? They are not greatly 
concerned about the danger, I think, or 
else they would join with England and 
France in a great battle to push it back. 
If, then, Aut'-ria and Prussia are ready 


3 iJ 

to accept these proposals, why should 
not we be? Do you suppose that, if 
Russia really meditated an attack upon 
Germany—that if she had an idea of 
annexing the smallest portion of German 
territory, with only 100,000 inhabitants 
of Teutonic blood, all Germany would 
not be united as one man to resist her > 
Is there not a strong national feeling in 
that Germanic race?—are they not nearly 
40,000,000 in number?—are they not 
the most intelligent, the most instructed, 
and have they not proved themselves the 
most patriotic people in Europe ? And 
if they are not dissatisfied, why should 
we stand out for better conditions, and 
why should we make greater efforts and 
greater sacrifices to obtain peace than 
they? I may be told, that the people 
and the Government of Germany are 
not quite in harmony on these points. 
[Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen who cheer, 
ought to be cautious, I think, how they 
assume that Governments do not repre¬ 
sent their people. How would you like 
the United States to accept that doctrine 
with regard to this country? But I 
venture to question the grounds upon 
which that opinion is formed. I have 
taken some little pains to ascertain the 
feeling of the people in Germany on this 
war, and I believe that if you were to 
poll the population of Prussia—which 
is the brain of Germany—whilst nine¬ 
teen-twentieths would say that in this 
quarrel England is right and Russia 
wrong ; nay, whilst they would say they 
wished success to England as against 
Russia, yet, on the contrary, if you were 
to poll the same population as to whether 
they would join England with an army 
to fight against Russia, I believe, from 
all I have heard, that nineteen-twen 
tieths would support their King in his 
present pacific policy. 

But I want to know what is the ad¬ 
vantage of having the vote of a people 
like that in your favour, if they are not 
inclined to join you in action? There is, 
indeed, a wide distinction between the 
existence of a certain opinion in the 
minds of a people and a determination 
to go to war in support of that opinion. 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


DEC. 32, 


314 

I think we were rather too precipitate 
in transferring our opinion into acts ; 
that we rushed to arms with too much 
rapidity; and that if we had abstained 
from war, continuing to occupy the same 
ground as Austria and Prussia, the result 
would have been, that Russia would have 
left the Principalities, and have crossed 
the Pruth; and that, without a single shot 
being fired, you would have accomplish¬ 
ed the object for which you have gone 
to war. But what are the grounds on 
which we are to continue this war, when 
the Germans have acquiesced in the pro¬ 
posals of peace which have been made ? 
Is it that war is a luxury? Is it that 
we are fighting—to use a cant phrase of 
Mr. Pitt’s time—to secure indemnity for 
the past, and security for the future? 
Are we to be the Don Quixotes of 
Europe, to go about fighting for every 
cause where we find that some one has 
been wronged ? In most quarrels there 
is generally a little wrong on both sides ; 
and, if we make up our minds always to 
interfere when any one is being wronged, 
I do not see always howwe are to choose 
between the two sides. It will not do 
always to assume that the weaker party 
is in the right, for little States, like little 
individuals, are often very quarrelsome, 
presuming on their weakness, and not 
unfrequently abusing the forbearance 
which their weakness procures them. 
But the question is, on what ground of 
honour or interest are we to continue to 
carry on this war, when we may have 
peace upon conditions which are satis¬ 
factory to the great countries of Europe 
who are near neighbours of this formid¬ 
able Power? There is neither honour 
nor interest forfeited, I think, in accept¬ 
ing these terms, because we have already 
accomplished the object for which it was 
said this war was begun. 

The questions which have since arisen, 
with regard to Sebastopol, for instance, 
•sire mere points of detail, not to be 
bound up with the original quarrel. I 
hear many people say, ‘We will take 
Sebastopol, and then we will treat for 
peace.’ I am not going to say that you 
cannot take Sebastopol—I am not going 


to argue against the power of England 
and France. I might admit, for the 
sake of argument, that you can take 
Sebastopol. You may occupy ten miles 
of territory in the Crimea for any time ; 
you may build there a town ; you may 
carry provisions and reinforcements 
there, for you have the command of the 
sea ; but while you do all this, you will 
have no peace with Russia. Nobody 
who knows the history of Russia can 
think for a moment that you are going 
permanently to occupy any portion of 
her territory, and, at the same time, to 
be at peace with that empire. But 
admitting your power to do all this, is 
the object which you seek to accomplish 
worth the sacrifice which it will cost 
you ? Can anybody doubt that the 
capture of Sebastopol will cost you a 
prodigious sacrifice of valuable lives; 
and, I ask you, is the object to be gained 
worth that sacrifice ? The loss of 
treasure I will leave out of the question, 
for that may be replaced, but we can 
never restore to this country those 
valuable men who may be sacrificed in 
fighting the battles of their country— 
perhaps the most energetic, the bravest, 
the most devoted body of men that ever 
left these islands. You may sacrifice 
them, if you like, but you are bound to 
consider whether the object will com¬ 
pensate you for that sacrifice. 

I will assume that you take Sebasto¬ 
pol ; but for what purpose is it that you 
will take it, for you cannot permanently 
occupy the Crimea without being in a 
perpetual state of war with Russia ? It 
is, then, I presume, as a point of honour, 
that you insist upon taking it, because 
you have once commenced the siege. 
The noble Lord, speaking of this fort¬ 
ress, said :— 1 If Sebastopol, that great 
stronghold of Russian power, were de¬ 
stroyed, its fall would go far to give that 
security to Turkey which was the object 
of the war.’ But I utterly deny that 
Sebastopol is the stronghold of Russian 
power. It is simply an outward and 
visible sign of the power of Russia ; but, 
by destroying Sebastopol, you do not 
by any means destroy that power. You 



i8s4- 


RUSSIAN WAR. I. 


315 


do not destroy or touch Russian power, 
unless you can permanently occupy 
some portion of its territory, disorder its 
industry, or disturb its Government. If 
you can strike at its capital, if you can 
deprive it of some of its immense fertile 
plains, or take possession of those vast 
rivers which empty themselves into the 
Black Sea, then, indeed, you strike at 
Russian power ; but, suppose you take 
Sebastopol, and make peace to-morrow ; 
in ten years, I tell you, the Russian 
Government will come to London for a 
loan to build it up again stronger than 
before. And as for destroying those 
old green fir ships, you only do the 
Emperor a service, by giving him an 
opportunity for building fresh ones. 

Is not the celebrated case of Dunkirk 
exactly in point? In 1713, at the 
treaty of Utrecht, the French King, 
under sore necessity, consented to de¬ 
stroy Dunkirk. It had heen built under 
the direction of Vauban, who had ex¬ 
hausted his genius and the coffers of the 
State, in making it as strong as science 
and money could make it. The French 
King bound himself to demolish it, and 
the English sent over two Commis¬ 
sioners to see the fortress thrown 
to the ground, the jetties demolished 
and cast into the harbour, and a mole 
or bank built across the channel leading 
into the port; and you would have 
thought Dunkirk was destroyed once 
and for ever. There was a treaty bind¬ 
ing the King not to rebuild it, and 
which on two successive occasions was 
renewed. Some few years afterwards a 
storm came and swept away the mole or 
bank which blocked up the channel, by 
which accident ingress and egress were 
restored ; and shortly afterwards, a war 
breaking out between England and 
Spain, the French Government took 
advantage of our being engaged else¬ 
where, and rebuilt the fortifications on 
the seaside, as the historian tells us, 
much stronger than before. The fact is 
recorded, that in the Seven Years’War, 
about forty years afterwards, Dunkirk, 
for all purposes of aggression by sea, 
was more formidable than ever. We 


had in that case a much stronger motive 
for destroying Dunkirk than we can 
ever have in the case of Sebastopol; 
for in the war which ended in the peace 
of Utrecht, there were 1,600 English 
merchant-vessels, valued at 1,250,000/., 
taken by privateers which came out of 
Dunkirk. 

Then, again, in the middle of the last 
century, we destroyed Cherbourg, and 
during the last war we held possession 
of Toulon; but did we thereby destroy 
the power of France ? If we could have 
got hold of some of her fertile provinces 
—if we could have taken possession of 
her capital, or struck at her vitals, we 
might have permanently impoverished 
and diminished her power and resources; 
but we could not do it by the simple 
demolition of this or that fortress. So 
it would be in this case—we might take 
Sebastopol, and then make peace; but 
there would be the rankling wound— 
there would be a venom in the treaty 
which would determine Russia to take 
the first opportunity of reconstructing 
this fortress. There would be storms, 
too, there, which would destroy what¬ 
ever mole we might build across the 
harbour of Sebastopol, for storms in the 
Black Sea are more frequent, as we 
know, than in the Channel; but even 
if Sebastopol were utterly destroyed, 
there are many places on the coast of 
the Crimea which might be occupied for 
a similar purpose. 

But then comes the question, Will the 
destruction of Sebastopol give security 
to the Turks? The Turkish Empire 
will only be safe when its internal con¬ 
dition is secure, and you are not securing 
the internal condition of Turkey while 
you are at war; on the contrary, I 
believe you are now doing more to 
demoralise the Turks and destroy their 
Government than you could possibly 
have done in time of peace. If you wish 
to secure Turkey, you must reform its 
Government, purify its administration, 
unite its people, and draw out its re¬ 
sources ; and then it will not present 
the spectacle of misery and poverty that 
it does now. Why, you yourselves have 




3i6 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


DEC. 22, 


recognised the existing state of Turkey 
to be so bad, that you intend to make a 
treaty which shall bind the Five Powers 
to a guarantee for the better treatment of 
the Christians. But have you considered 
well the extent of the principle in which 
you are embarking? You contemplate 
making a treaty by which the Five Powers 
are to do that together which Russia 
has hitherto claimed to do herself. 
What sort of conclusion do you think 
disinterested and impartial critics—peo¬ 
ple in the United States, for instance 
—will draw from such a policy ? They 
must come to the conclusion that we have 
been rather wrong in our dealings with 
Russia, if we have gone to war with her to 
prevent her doing that very thing which 
we ourselves propose to do, in conjunc¬ 
tion with the other Powers. If so much 
mischief has sprung from the protector¬ 
ate of one Power, Heaven help the 
Turks when the protectorate of the Five 
Powers is inaugurated ! But, at this 
very moment, I understand that a mixed 
Commission is sitting at Vienna, to serve 
as a court of appeal for the Danubian 
Principalities; in fact, that Moldavia 
and Wallachia are virtually governed 
by a Commission representing Austria, 
England, France, and Turkey. 

Now, this is the very principle of 
interference against which I wish to 
protest. From this I derive a recognition 
of the exceptional internal condition of 
Turkey, which, I say, will be your great 
difficulty upon the restoration of peace. 
Well, then, would it not be more states¬ 
manlike in the Government, instead of 
appealing, with clap-trap arguments, to 
heedless passions out of doors, and telling 
the people that Turkey has made more 
progress in the career of regeneration 
during the last twenty years than any 
other country under the sun, at once to 
address themselves to the task before 
them—the reconstruction of the internal 
system of that empire ? Be sure this is 
what you will have to do, make peace 
when you may; for everybody knows 
that, once you withdraw your support 
and your agency from her, Turkey must 
immediately collapse, and sink into a 
state of anarchy. The fall of Sebastopol 


would only make the condition of Turkey 
the worse; and, I repeat, that your real 
and most serious difficulty will begin 
when you have to undertake the manage¬ 
ment of that country’s affairs, after you 
withdraw from it, and when you will 
have to re-establish her as an independ¬ 
ent State. I would not have said a word 
about the condition of Turkey, but forthe 
statement twice so jauntily made about 
her social progress by the noble Lord 
the Member for Tiverton. Why, what 
says the latest traveller in that country 
on this head? Lord Carlisle, in his 
recent work, makes the following re¬ 
marks on the state of the Mahometan 
population, after describing the improv¬ 
ing condition of the Porte’s Christian 
subjects :— 

‘ But when you leave the partial splen¬ 
dours of the capital and the great State 
establishments, what is it you find over the 
broad surface of a land which nature and 
climate have favoured beyond all others, 
once the home of all art and all civilisation? 
Look yourself—ask those who live there 
—deserted villages, uncultivated plains, 
banditti-haunted mountains, torpid laws, 
a corrupt administration, a disappearing 
people.’ 

Why, the testimony borne by every 
traveller, from Lamartine downwards, 
is, that the Mahometan population is 
perishing—is dying out from its vices, 
and those vices of a nameless character. 
In fact, we do not know the true social 
state of Turkey, because it is indescriba¬ 
ble ; and Lord Carlisle, in his work, says 
that he is constrained to avoid referring 
to it. The other day, Dr. Hadly, who 
had lately returned from Turkey, where 
he had a near relation, who had been 
physician to the Embassy for about 
thirty-five years, stated in Manchester 
that his relative told him that the po¬ 
pulation of Constantinople, into which 
there is a large influx from the provinces, 
has considerably diminished during the 
last twenty years, —a circumstance which 
he attributes to the indescribable social 
vices of the Turks. Now, I ask, are 
you doing anything to promote habits of 
self-reliance or self-respect among this 
people by going to war in their behalf? 



1854. 


RUSSIAN WAR. I. 


317 


On the contrary, the moment your 
troops landed at Gallipoli, the activity 
and energy of the French killed a poor 
pacha there, who took to his bed, and 
died from pure distraction of mind; and 
from that time to this you have done 
nothing but humiliate and demoralise 
the Turkish character more than ever. 

I have here a letter from a friend, de¬ 
scribing the conflagration which took 
place at Varna, in which he says, it was 
curious to see how our sailors, when 
they landed to extinguish the fire in the 
Turkish houses, thrust the poor Turks 
aside, exactly as if they had been so 
many infant-school children in England. 
Another private letter, which I recently 
received from an officer of high rank in 
the Crimea, states:— 

' We are degrading the Turk as fast as 
we can; he is now the scavenger of the 
two armies as far as he can be made so. 
He won’t fight, and his will to work is 
little better ; he won’t be trusted again to 
try the former, and now the latter is all he 
is allowed to do. When there are entrench¬ 
ments to be made, or dead to be buried, 
the Turks do it. They do it as slowly and 
lazily as they can, but do it they must. 
This is one way of raising the Turk ; it is 
propping him up on one side, to send him 
headlong down a deeper precipice on the 
other.’ 

That is what you are doing by the 
process that is now going on in Turkey. 

I dare say you are obliged to take the 
whole command into your own hands, 
because you find no native power—no 
administrative authority in that country; 
and you cannot rely on the Turks for 
anything, If they send an army to the 
Crimea, the sick are abandoned to the 
plague or the cholera, and having no 
commissariat, their soldiers are obliged 
to beg a crust at the tents of our men. 
Why, Sir, what an illustration you have 
in the facts relating to our sick and 
wounded at Constantinople of the help¬ 
less supineness of the Turks 1 I mention 
these things, as the whole gist of the 
Eastern Question lies in the difficulty 
arising from the prostrate condition of 
this race. Your troops would not be , 
in this quarter at all, but for the anarchy | 
and barbarism that reign in Turkey. I 


Well, you have a hospital at Scutari, 
where there are some thousands of your 
wounded. They are wounded English¬ 
men, brought there from the Crimea, 
where they have gone 3,000 miles from 
their own home, to fight the battles of 
the Turks. Would you not naturally 
expect, that when these miserable and 
helpless sufferers were brought to the 
Turkish capital, containing 700,000 souls, 
those in whose cause they have shed their 
blood would at once have a friendly and 
generous care taken of them ? Suppos¬ 
ing the case had been that these wounded 
men had been fighting for the cause of 
Prussia, and that they had been sent from 
the frontiers of that country to Berlin, 
which has only half the population of 
Constantinople, would the ladies of the 
former capital, do you think, have al¬ 
lowed these poor creatures to have suf¬ 
fered from the want of lint or of nurses ? 
Does not the very fact that you have to 
send out everything for your wounded, 
prove either that the Turks despise and 
detest, and would spit upon you, or that 
they are so feeble and incompetent as not 
to have the power of helping you in the 
hour of your greatest necessity? The 
people of England have been grossly mis¬ 
led regarding the state of Turkey. I am 
bound to consider that the noble Lord 
the Member for Tiverton expressed his 
honest convictions on this point; but 
certainly the unfortunate ignorance of 
one in his high position has had a most 
mischievous effect on the public opinion 
of this country, for it undoubtedly has 
been the prevalent impression out of 
doors, that the Turks are thoroughly capa¬ 
ble of regeneration and self-government 
—that the Mahometan population are 
fit to be restored to independence, and 
that we have only to fight their battle 
against their external enemies in order 
to enable them to exercise the functions 
of a great Power. A greater delusion 
than this, however, I believe, never ex¬ 
isted in any civilised State. 

Well, if, as I say is the case, the 
unanimous testimony of every traveller, 
German, French, English, and Ameri¬ 
can, for the last twenty years, attests 
the decay and helplessness of the Turks, 






SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


DEC. 22, 


318 

are you not wasting your treasure and 
your men’s precious lives before Sebas¬ 
topol, in an enterprise that cannot in the 
least aid the solution of your real diffi¬ 
culty? If you mean to take the Emperor 
of Russia eventually into your counsels 
—for this is the drift of my argument 
—if you contemplate entering into a 
quintuple alliance, to which he will be 
one of the parties, in order to manipulate 
the shattered remains of Turkey, to re¬ 
constitute or revise her internal polity, 
and maintain her independence, what 
folly it is to continue fighting against the 
Power that you are going into partner¬ 
ship with; and how absurd in the extreme 
it is to continue the siege of Sebastopol, 
which will never solve the difficulty, but 
must envenom the State with which you 
are to share the protectorate, and which 
is also the nearest neighbour of the 
Power for which you interpose, and your 
efforts to reorganise which, even if there 
be a chance of your accomplishing that 
object, she has the greatest means of 
thwarting ! Would it not be far better 
for you to allow this question to be 
settled by peace, than leave it to the 
arbitrement of war, which cannot ad¬ 
vance its adjustment one inch? 

I have already adduced an illustration 
from the history of this country, as an 
inducement for your returning to peace. 
I will mention another. We all remem¬ 
ber the war with America, into which 
we entered in 1812, on the question of 
the right of search, and other cognate 
questions relating to the rights of neu¬ 
trals. Seven years before that war was 
declared, public opinion and the states¬ 
men of the two countries had been in¬ 
cessantly disputing upon the questions 
at issue, but nothing could be amicably 
settled respecting them, and war broke 
out. After two years of hostilities, how¬ 
ever, the negotiators on both sides met 
again, and fairly arranged the terms of 
peace. But how did they do this? Why, 
they agreed in their treaty of peace not 
to allude to what had been the subject- 
matter of the dispute which gave rise to 
the war, and the question of the right of 
search was never once touched on in that 
treaty. The peace then made between 


England and America has now lasted 
for forty years ; and what has been the 
result ? In the mean time, America has 
grown stronger, and we, perhaps, have 
grown wiser, though I am not quite so 
sure of that. We have now gone to war 
again with a European Power, but we 
have abandoned those belligerent rights 
about which we took up the sword in 
1812. Peace solved that difficulty, and 
did more for you than war ever could 
have done; for, had you insisted at 
Ghent on the American people recog¬ 
nising your right to search their ships, 
take their seamen, and seize their goods, 
they would have been at war with you 
till this hour, before they would have 
surrendered these points, and the most 
frightful calamities might have been en¬ 
tailed on both countries by a protracted 
struggle. 

Now, apply this lesson to the Eastern 
question. Supposing you agree to terms 
of peace with Russia, you will have your 
hands full in attempting to ameliorate the 
social and political system of Turkey. 
But who knows what may happen with 
regard to Russia herself in the way of 
extricating you from your difficulty ? 
That difficulty, as respects Russia, is no 
doubt very much of a personal nature. 
You have to deal with a man of great, 
but, as I think, misguided energy, whose 
strong will and indomitable resolution 
cannot easily be controlled. But the life 
of a man has its limits; and certainly, 
the Emperor of Russia, if he survive as 
many years from this time as the dura¬ 
tion of the peace between England and 
America, will be a most extraordinary 
phenomenon. You can hardly suppose 
that you will have a great many years to 
wait before, in the course of nature, that 
which constitutes your chief difficulty in 
the present war may have passed away. 
It is because you do not sufficiently trust 
to the influence of the course of events 
in smoothing down difficulties, but will 
rush headlong to a resort to arms, which 
never can solve them, that you involve 
yourselves in long and ruinous wars. I 
never was of opinion that you had any 
reason to dread the aggressions of Russia 
upon any other State. If you have a 



RUSSIAN WAR. I. 


3i9 


1854. 

weak and disordered empire like Turkey, 
as it were, next door to another that is 
more powerful, no doubt that tends to 
invite encroachments ; but you have two 
chances in your favour—you may either 
have a feeble or differently-disposed 
successor acceding to the throne of the 
present Czar of Russia, or you may be 
able to establish some kind of authority 
in Turkey that will be more stable than 
its present rule. At all events, if you 
effect a quintuple alliance between your¬ 
selves and the other great Powers, you 
will certainly bind Austria, Prussia, and 
France to support you in holding Russia 
to the faithful fulfilment of the proposed 
treaty relating to the internal condition 
of Turkey. Why not, then, embrace 
that alternative, instead of continuing 
the present war ? because, recollect that 
you have accomplished the object which 
Her Majesty in her gracious Speech last 
session stated that she had in view in 
engaging in this contest. Russia is no 
longer invading the Turkish territory; 
you are now rather invading Russia’s 
own dominions, and attacking one of 
her strongholds at the extremity of her 
empire, but, as I contend, not assailing 
the real source of her power. Now, I 
say you may withdraw from Sebastopol 
without at all compromisingyour honour. 

By-the-by, I do not understand what 
is meant, when you say that your honour 
is staked on your success in any enter¬ 
prise of this kind. Your honour may 
be involved in your successfully rescuing 
Turkey from Russian aggression ; but, 
if you have accomplished that task, you 
may withdraw your forces from before 
Sebastopol wdthout being liable to re¬ 
proach for the sacrifice of your national 
honour. 

I have another ground for trusting 
that peace would not be again broken, 
if you terminate hostilities now. I 
believe that all parties concerned have 
received such a lesson, that they are not 
likely soon to rush into war again. I 
believe that the Emperor of Russia has 
learnt, from the courage and self-rely¬ 
ing force displayed by our troops, that 
an enlightened, free, and self-governed 
people is a far more formidable antago¬ 


nist than he had reckoned upon, and 
that he will not so confidently advance 
his semi-barbarous hordes to cope with 
the active energy and inexhaustible re¬ 
sources of the representatives of Western 
civilisation. England also has been taught 
that it is not so easy to carry on war 
upon land against a State like Russia, 
and will weigh the matter well in future 
before she embarks in any such conflict. 

I verily believe that all parties want 
to get out of this war—I believe that 
this is the feeling of all the Govern¬ 
ments concerned ; and I consider that 
you have now the means, if you please, 
of escaping from your embarrassment, 
notwithstanding that some Members of 
our Cabinet, by a most unstatesmanlike 
proceeding, have succeeded in evoking 
a spirit of excitement in the country 
which it will not be very easy to allay. 
The noble Lord the Member for London, 
and the noble Lord the Member for 
Tiverton, have, in my opinion, min¬ 
istered to this excited feeling, and held 
out expectations which it will be ex¬ 
tremely difficult to satisfy. 

Now, what do you intend to do if 
your operations before Sebastopol 
should fail ? The Secretary-at-War 
tells us that ‘ Sebastopol must be taken 
this campaign, or it will not be taken at 
all.’ If you are going to stake all upon 
this one throw of the dice, I say that it 
is more than the people of England 
themselves had calculated upon. But 
if you have made up your minds that 
you will have only one campaign against 
Sebastopol, and that, if it is not taken 
then, you will abandon it, in that case, 
surely, there is little that stands between 
you and the proposals for peace on the 
terms I have indicated. 

I think you will do well to take 
counsel from the hon. Member for 
Aylesbury (Mr. Layard), than whom— 
although I do not always agree with 
him in opinion — I know nobody on 
whose authority I would more readily 
rely in matters of fact relating to the 
East. That hon. Gentleman tells you 
that Russia will soon have 200,000 men 
in the Crimea; and if this be so, and this 
number is only to be ‘the beginning,’ 





320 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


DEC. 22,1854. 


I should say, now is the time, of all 
others, to accept moderate proposals for 
peace. 

Now, mark, I do not say that France 
and England cannot succeed in what 
they have undertaken in the Crimea. 
I do not set any limits to what these 
two great countries may do, if they 
persist in fighting this duel with Russia’s 
force of 200,000 men in the Crimea ; 
and, therefore, do not let it be said that 
I offer any discouragement to my fel¬ 
low-countrymen ; but what I come back 
to is the question—what are you likely 
to get that will compensate you for your 
sacrifice ? The hon. Member for Ayles¬ 
bury also says, that * the Russians will, 
next year, overrun Asiatic Turkey, and 
seize Turkey’s richest provinces ’—they 
will probably extend their dominion 
over Asia Minor down to the sea-coast. 
The acquisition of these provinces would 
far more than compensate her for the 
loss of Sebastopol. I suppose you do 
not contemplate making war upon the 
plains in the interior of Russia, but wish 
to destroy Sebastopol ; your success in 
which I have told you, I believe, will 
only end in that stronghold being re¬ 
built, ten years hence or so, from the 
resources of London capitalists. How, 
then, will you benefit Turkey — and 
especially if the prediction is fulfilled 
regarding Russia’s overrunning the 
greater portion of Asiatic Turkey ? I am 
told, also, that the Turkish army will 
melt away like snow before another 
year; and where, then, under all these 
circumstances, will be the wisdom or 
advantage in carrying on the war ? 

I have now, Sir, only one word to 
add, and that relates to the condition of 
our army in t-he Crimea. We are all, I 
dare say, constantly hearing accounts, 
from friends out there, of the condition, 
not only of our own soldiers, but also of 
the Turks, as well as of the state of the 
enemy. What I have said about the 
condition of the Turks will, I am sure, 
be made as clear as daylight, when the 
army’s letters are published and our 
officers return home. But as to the 
state of our own troops, I have in my 
hand a private letter from a friend in 


the Crimea, dated the 2nd of December 
last, in which the writer says,— 

‘ The people of England will shudder 
when they read of what this army is suffer¬ 
ing—and yet they will hardly know one- 
half of it. I cannot imagine that either 
pen or pencil can ever depict it in its 
fearful reality. The line, from the nature 
of their duties, are greater sufferers than 
the artillery, although there is not much 
to choose between them. I am told, by 
an officer of the former, not likely to 
exaggerate, that one stormy, wet night, 
when the tents were blown down, the 
sick, the wounded, and the dying of his 
regiment, were struggling in one fearful 
mass for warmth and shelter. 

Now, if you consult these brave men, 
and ask them what their wishes are, 
their first and paramount desire would 
be to fulfil their duty. They are sent 
to capture Sebastopol, and their first 
object would be to take that strong fort¬ 
ress, or perish in the attempt. But, if 
you were able to look into the hearts of 
these men, to ascertain what their long¬ 
ing, anxious hope has been, even in the 
midst of the bloody struggle at Alma or 
at Inkerman, I believe you would find 
it has been, that the conflict in which 
they were engaged might have the effect 
of sooner restoring them again to their 
own hearths and homes. Now, I say 
that the men who have acted so nobly 
at the bidding of their country are en¬ 
titled to that country’s sympathy and 
consideration ; and if there be no im¬ 
perative necessity for further prosecuting 
the operations of the siege, which must 
—it will, I am sure, be admitted by all, 
whatever may be the result—be neces¬ 
sarily attended with an immense sacri¬ 
fice of precious lives—unless, I say, you 
can show that some paramount object 
will be gained by contending for the 
mastery over those forts and ships, you 
ought to encourage Her Majesty’s Go¬ 
vernment to look with favour upon the 
propositions which now proceed from 
the enemy ; and then, if we do make 
mistakes in accepting moderate terms of 
peace, we shall, at all events, have this 
consolation, that we are erring on the 
side of humanity. 




RUSSIAN WAR. 

ii. 


HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 5, 1855. 

[On March 15, 1855. an attempt was made to restore peace, by assembling the repre¬ 
sentatives of the principal European Powers in Vienna, with a view to finding a basis 
for negotiations. It was believed that the prospects of peace were brighter since the 
death of the Emperor Nicholas (March 2). The chief object of the Conference was 
to limit the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea. But to this Prince Gortschakoff, 
who represented Russia, would not agree, and the negotiations broke down. The 
Conference sat till April 26, and the dissolution of the Conference was announced on 
Junes. The house was engaged in debating two resolutions: one of Sir Thomas 
Baring, which merely regretted the failure of the Vienna negotiations; and another, 
of Mr. Ixnve, which averred that the refusal of Russia to restrict her naval force in 
the Black Sea, had exhausted the means of suspending hostilities by negotiation. 
The former motion was agreed to.] 


I consider that the announcement 
which the noble Lord at the head of the 
Government has just made, ought not to 
prevent this House from discussing the 
important subject now before it; for, 
whatever may be the result of the division 
here, certainly there is no other topic 
which now so much engrosses public 
attention out of doors. The minority of 
Members of this House who wish to 
raise this question, and who belong to 
what is called the Peace party, have been 
stigmatised as enemies of their country, 
and traitors to the cause in which it is 
engaged. Why, my impulsive friend the 
Member for Lambeth (Mr. Wilkinson), 
and others who followed him, if they 
had at all read the recent history of this 
country, would have been ashamed of 
the charges they have made, because of 
their very triteness, and because they 
have at former periods been levelled at 
men of undoubted patriotism, who were 
totally undeserving of these reproaches. 
We know, for example, that it was attri¬ 


buted to Burke, that he had caused the 
American War, and that distinguished 
man complained feelingly of having been 
denounced as an American. We know 
also that the great Chatham himself did 
not escape that imputation ; and I need 
not tell the occupants of the Treasury- 
bench that their illustrious chief in former 
days, Charles Fox, was ridiculed and 
denounced in every way as having been 
the hireling tool of France. In one of 
Gilray’s inimitable caricatures, Fox is 
represented as standing on the edge of 
Dover cliffs, with a lantern in his hand, 
signalling to the French to come over 
and invade us; and, indeed, we read in 
Horner’s ‘Memoirs,’ that it was seriously 
discussed whether Fox was not actually 
in the pay of France. Therefore I say 
that lion. Gentlemen who have no facts 
or imagination of their own on which to 
base their arguments, ought really to be 
ashamed to reproduce absurd and calum¬ 
nious partisan accusations of this kind 
| in such a debate. 


21 




322 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 5, 


I claim the same standing-ground, in 
discussing this question of peace or war, 
as any other hon. Gentleman. I will 
deal with it as a politician, strictly on the 
principles of policy and expediency; and 
I am prepared to assume that wars may 
be inevitable and necessary, although I 
do not admit that all wars are so. We, 
therefore, who took exception to the 
commencement of this war on grounds 
of policy, are not to be classed by indi¬ 
vidual Members of this House with those 
who are necessarily opposed to all wars 
whatever. That is but a device to repre¬ 
sent a section of this House as advocates 
of notions so utopian that they must be 
entirely shut out of the arena of modern 
politics, and their arguments systematic¬ 
ally denied that fair hearing to which 
all shades of opinion are fairly entitled, 
no matter from what quarter they may 
emanate. I say, that we have all one 
common object in view—we all seek the 
interest of our country; and the only 
basis on which this debate should be 
conducted is that of the honest and just 
interests of England. 

Now, the House of Commons is a 
body that has to deal with nothing but 
the honest interests of England ; and I 
likewise assert that the honest and just 
interests of this country, and of her 
inhabitants, are the just and honest 
interests of the whole world. As indi¬ 
viduals, we may act philanthropically 
to all the world, and as Christians we 
may wish well to all, and only desire to 
have power in order to inflict chastise¬ 
ment on the wrong-doer, and to raise 
up the down-trodden wherever they 
may be placed ; but I maintain that we 
do not come here to lay taxes on the 
people for the purpose of carrying out 
schemes of universal benevolence, or to 
enforce the behests of the Almighty in 
every part of the globe. We are a body 
with limited powers and duties, and we 
must confine ourselves to guarding the 
just interests of this empire. We ought, 
therefore, to cast to the winds all the 
declamatory balderdash and verbiage 
that we have heard from the Treasury- 
bench as to our fighting for the liberty 


and independence of the entire world. 
You do not seriously mean to fight for 
anything of the kind; and, when you 
come to examine the grave political 
discussions of the Vienna Conferences, 
you find that the statesmen and noble 
Lords who worked us into this war, and 
whipped and lashed the country into a 
warlike temper by exciting appeals to 
its enthusiasm, have no real intention 
to satisfy the expectations which their 
own public declarations have created. 
I say, we are dealing with a question 
affecting the interests of the realm, and 
one which may be discussed without any 
declamatory appeals to passion from any 
part of the House. 

I now wish to refer to the speech of 
the right hon. Gentleman the Member 
for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth). 
If there be a right honourable or honour¬ 
able Gentleman in this House whose 
opinions I have a right to say I under¬ 
stand, it is the right hon. Baronet. I 
say most deliberately—and he cannot 
contradict me—that never in this world 
was there a speech delivered by any 
honourable Gentleman so utterly at 
variance with all previous declarations 
of opinion as that delivered by the right 
honourable Gentleman last night. Does 
the right hon. Gentleman remember a 
jeu-cTesprit of the poet Moore, when deal¬ 
ing, in 1833, with the Whig occupants 
of those (the Treasury) benches, shortly 
after they had emerged from a long 
penance in the dreary wilderness of Op¬ 
position, and when the Whigs showed 
themselves to be Tories when in office ? 
Does he remember the jm-d'esprit 1 — 
why, I think he and I have laughed over 
it, when we have been talking over the 
sudden conversions of right honourable 
Gentlemen. The poet illustrated the 
matter by a story of an Irishman who 
went over to the West Indies, and, 
before landing, heard some of the blacks 
speaking tolerably bad English, where¬ 
upon, mistaking them for his own 
countrymen, he exclaimed, ‘ What! 
black and curly already?’ Now, we 
have all seen metamorphoses upon those 
benches—how colours have changed, 





RUSSIAN WAR. II. 


323 


1855. 

and features become deformed, when 
men came under the influence of the 
Treasury atmosphere; but I must say 
that never, to my knowledge, have I 
seen a change in which there has been 
so deep a black and so stiff a curl. 

I confess I should very much like 
to make the right hon. Gentleman 
read that admirable speech which he 
delivered, not merely on the great 
Pacifico debate, when he denounced an 
intermeddling policy on the part of the 
noble Lord at the head of the Govern¬ 
ment, but also the speech which he 
made in Yorkshire at the time of the 
threatened rupture with France upon 
the Syrian question. I wish the right 
hon. Gentleman could be forced to read 
to the House the speech he made in 
the open air to the people of Leeds 
about going to war for the Mahomedan 
race, and for the maintenance of its 
ascendancy in European Turkey. 1 
should like to see the right hon. Gentle¬ 
man just stand at the table, and to hear 
him read aloud that speech. 

I will now come to the right hon. 
Gentleman’s arguments. The right hon. 
Gentleman says, f he question is now, 
whether the Government did right in 
refusing to make peace on the terms 
proposed by Russia? Now, that, I 
assert, is not the whole question. The 
real question which is involved in the 
debate, and which the House has to 
decide, is, whether the plan proposed by 
the Government was the best and only 
one that could be desired, and whether 
the difference between the plan sub¬ 
mitted by Russia and that proposed by 
our Government was such as warranted 
a recommencement of the war. What 
is the difference between those proposi¬ 
tions? It is the Government of this 
country that we have to deal with, and 
shall have to deal with in future. They 
must be held responsible for the war; 
they will reap all the glory, if it be 
successful, and on them must rest the 
responsibility should it be, unhappily, 
unsuccessful. What, then, I ask, is the 
difference between the propositions of 
the Government and those of Russia ? ! 


The difference is this—whether Russia 
shall keep four ships of the line, four 
frigates, and a proportional number of 
smaller vessels in the Black Sea; or 
whether all navies of the world shall 
have free access to the Black Sea, and 
Russia be left, like any other country, 
to have as many ships as she pleases. I 
will not go over the ground so ably 
traversed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. 
M. Gibson), but upon the question of 
the limitation of force I wish to make 
one remark. You offer to allow Russia 
to have four ships of the line, four 
frigates, and a proportion of smaller 
vessels. Now, I have been told by a 
nautical man, fully competent to give 
an opinion upon such a subject, that if 
Russia had accepted your terms, had 
burnt or sunk all her old 74’s, and green- 
timber built ships, and had sent to the 
United States for four line-of-battle ships 
of the largest size, fitted with screws, 
mounting 130 guns of the largest calibre, 
and for four frigates of that elastic 
character which the Americans give to 
their frigates, carrying some 70 or 80 
guns of the heaviest calibre, and all those 
vessels fitted with screws, she would then 
have possessed a far better and much 
more powerful navy than ever she had 
before in the Black Sea. Such a navy 
would have been more than a match for 
double the number of ships such as 
Russia now has in that sea. If that 
be the case, what injury will you inflict 
upon Russia—what diminution of naval 
power will you enforce — what great 
reduction of force are you going to 
demand for the protection of Turkey? 

I know I may be told, ‘ Then why 
did not Russia accede to those terms ? ’ 
Russia resisted that plan as a point of 
honour, and not as a question of force ; 
she rejected it on principle. The right 
hon. Gentleman says, ‘ If you allow 
Russia to have free action in the Black 
Sea, and you are to have free access 
yourself, then you will be obliged to 
keep up a large navy and a large peace 
establishment always to watch Russia.’ 
But suppose Russia had signed her 
name to a piece of parchment, would 




324 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 5 , 


you have such implicit faith in her as to 
reduce your forces to a peace establish¬ 
ment ? I would ask the right hon. 
Gentleman, who, in his inflammatory 
harangue last night, told us we were to 
have a six years’ war, whether, if the 
large sums expended in a six years’ war 
were put out at interest, the yearly 
return would not be more than sufficient 
to provide a sufficient force to watch 
Russia in time of peace? No one sup¬ 
poses for a moment that, if you had 
come to terms with Russia, you were 
going at once to reduce your war 
establishment. You will not believe 
anything which Russia promises. You 
say, ‘ It is of no use taking the guarantee 
of Russia ; we must insist on her dimin¬ 
ishing the number of her ships in the 
Black Sea.’ And if she did promise to 
diminish the number, you would not 
trust her—and, with your present views, 
properly so. 

But when you undertake to maintain 
the independence of Turkey, you have 
a task upon your hands which is not to 
be performed without great expense. It 
cannot be done without great arma¬ 
ments constantly on the watch over 
Tuikey. You have bound yourselves to 
the task of maintaining a tottering empire 
which cannot support itself, and such a 
task cannot be accomplished without a 
vast expenditure. You likewise ask for 
securities. Now I ask the noble Lord 
the Member for the City of London 
(Lord John Russell), to hear what the 
great model of the Whigs in Opposition 
said upon that subject. Mr. Fox, when 
the Tories of his day were urging, as 
the noble Lord is now urging against 
Russia, that we must have security 
against future aggressions of France, 
said 

1 Security ! You have security; the only 
security that you can ever expect to get. 
It is the present interest of France to make 
peace. She will keep it, if it be her 
interest. Such is the state of nations; and 
you have nothing but your own vigilance 
for your security.' 

i’hat rule still holds good, and will hold 
good so long as the world lasts in its 


present character. I maintain that, 
whatever parties there be in this House, 
whether for peace or war, if the majority 
of this House acknowledges as a duty or 
a matter of interest or policy, to main¬ 
tain Turkey against the encroachments 
of Russia, they can never expect to have 
a small peace establishment; and, I will 
say honestly, if we recognise as parts of 
our policy the sending of armed bodies 
of land forces to the Continent, into the 
midst of great standing armies, and into 
countries where the conscription prevails, 
I should be a hypocrite if I ever said we 
could expect to continue what has been 
the maxim of this country—the main¬ 
tenance of a moderate peace establish¬ 
ment. If that is to be our recognised 
policy, we must keep up a large standing 
army, and place ourselves to some extent 
on a par with Austria, France, and 
Russia ; and, if we attempt to interfere 
in Continental politics without such 
preparations, then, I say, the country is 
only preparing a most ignominious and 
ridiculous exposure of weakness. 

Is the right hon. Gentleman—who 
has been equalled by no one in his 
vituperation of the Emperor of Russia 
and the Russian Government—aware, 
as a Cabinet Minister, that the Govern¬ 
ment has made this country a party to a 
binding engagement with Russia, to a 
treaty binding ourselves, in conjunction 
with Russia, to interfere in the affairs of 
Wallachia and Moldavia? You, who 
said last night Russia was without shame, 
and attributed to her every vile principle, 
I ask, as a Member of the Cabinet, are 
you aware that a treaty has already been 
signed and concluded, so far as can be 
at present, in which this country binds 
itself, in conjunction with Russia, Aus¬ 
tria, France, and Turkey, to be the 
guardian of Wallachia and Moldavia; to 
act with Russia in interfering by force of 
arms, and, in fact, forming a tribunal 
which virtually will constitute the Go¬ 
vernment of YVallachia and Moldavia? 
I repeat, that by the first protocol, you 
have bound yourself, in partnership with 
Russia, to be virtually the governors of 
Wallachia and Moldavia. I will show 




RUSSIAN WAR. [I. 


325 


1 * 55 - 

you what engagements you entered into 
with that Government which it suits you 
for the moment to denounce, because, 
within forty-eight hours, the newspapers 
had brought you the news of some ima¬ 
ginary triumph, but which you would 
slaver with your praise to-morrow, if it 
suited your purpose. The 7th Article 
of the first protocol says :— 

‘ In the event of the internal tranquillity 
of the said Principalities being compro¬ 
mised, no armed intervention shall take 
place in their territories without being or 
becoming the subject of agreement between 
the high contrcating parties. 

' The Courts engage not to afford pro¬ 
tection in the Principalities to foreigners, 
whose proceedings might be prejudicial 
either to the tranquillity of those countries, 
or to the interests of neighbouring States. 
Disapproving such proceedings, they en¬ 
gage reciprocally to take into serious con¬ 
sideration the representations which may 
be made on this subject by the Powers, or 
even by the local authorities.’ 

So that if the Governor of Bucharest 
makes a report of some local erneute, 
you are bound, in conjunction with 
Russia, to interfere. But what is the 
conclusion of the protocol ? I blushed 
when I read it, and I believe there are 
other hon. Gentlemen who share my 
feelings :— 

‘ On its side, the Sublime Porte will en¬ 
join on the Principalities not to tolerate in 
their territory foreigners such as above 
described, nor’—and this is the gist of the 
article—' to allow the local inhabitants to 
meddle with matters dangerous to the 
tranquillity of their own country, or of 
neighbouring States.’ 

And the name of ‘John Russell’ is put 
at the foot of this protocol, the object of 
which is to prevent the inhabitants from 
interfering in matters which may be dan¬ 
gerous to the tranquillity of their own 
country. Mark the child and champion 
of revolution when he breathes the air of 
Vienna. My hon. Friend the Member 
for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) cheers these 
sentiments; he cheers my denunciations 
of these arrangements; but has my hon. 
Friend pursued that bold, consistent, and 


| manly course upon this question, which 
j I think, with his declared opinions, he 
ought to have taken ? It is well known 
that the sympathies of my hon. Friend 
were in favour of this war, because he 
believed it would be advantageous to the 
independence or the good government 
of such States as Wallachia, Moldavia, 
and Servia. But has my hon. Friend so 
little sagacity as not to see that all this 
waste of blood and treasure has had very 
different objects ? And why has my hon. 
Friend, seeing what is the tendency ot 
the war—seeing, from these protocols, 
what is to be its conclusion—not de¬ 
nounced it, since he has declared that a 
war with such objects as the Government 
had in view would be a wicked war ? 

Before the outbreak of the war, I was 
applied to by some illustrious men, and 
requested not to oppose it, because, as I 
was hopefully told, it was likely to tend 
to the emancipation of the down-trodden 
communities on the Continent. I gave 
my opinion upon the subject in writing, 
more than eighteen months ago, and I 
would not now change a word of it. I 
warned those distinguished persons, that 
if they expected that a war originating 
in diplomacy, as this war has originated, 
carried on by enormous regular armies, 
as this war has been carried on, and 
having a direction and a purpose given 
to it by the men who are now at the head 
of our Government and of the Continent¬ 
al Governments, could by any possibility 
satisfy their aspirations, they would de¬ 
ceive themselves. I said, my only fear 
was, that the war would have just the 
opposite result; that it would strengthen 
the despotisms they wished to check, and 
depress still lower the communities they 
wished to serve. That is the tendency, 
that is the inevitable destiny of this war. 
But to revert to my right hon. Friend 
(Sir W. Molesworth), and his charges 
against Russia and the Russian Govern¬ 
ment. I am not here to defend the 
Russian Government; no one can be 
more opposed than I am to the policy of 
Russian despotism; but I must say, I 
think it is unjustifiable, I had almost said 
scandalous, for a Member of a Cabinet 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 5, 


336 

which has been a party to these con¬ 
fidential, and, as I think, most unworthy 
engagements, in conjunction with the 
Russian Government, to get up in this 
House, and speak of the Russian Go¬ 
vernment and people as my right hon. 
Friend spoke of them last night. But 
this game of see-saw in argument has not 
been confined to him alone; it has been 
the characteristic of every Member of the 
Government. There has been a constant 
change of tone and argument to suit the 
momentary impulses of passion out of 
doors, and of the press. At times, so 
obvious is the effect produced by a few 
leading articles, that I could almost im¬ 
agine, if I were living in another country 
where constitutional government was 
carried on with less decorum than in this 
country, that some secrets had oozed out 
from some Member of the Cabinet, or 
from the wife of some Member of the 
Cabinet, to the editor of a newspaper, to 
the effect that there were disagreements 
in the Cabinet; that there was a peace 
party and a war party; that the war 
party was less numerous but more active 
than the peace party, and that the peace 
party required sometimes to be whipped 
into capitulation; and I could imagine 
the newspaper then dealing out a few 
blows in the shape of leading articles, 
from day to day, until the peace party 
had changed its tone, and given way to 
the war party. So complete a change 
of language have we seen, that I can 
almost imagine the case to have hap¬ 
pened even here, which I have supposed 
possible in another country. 

What has been the language of the 
noble Lord the Member for London 
(Lord John Russell)? At the Confer¬ 
ences he • was as amiable, polite, and 
agreeable as it is his natural wont to be 
to those with whom he associates in 
private. But immediately upon his re¬ 
turn to England and to the House of 
Commons, he falls back into his old 
strain, just as if he had never been to 
Vienna, and talks of Russia having 
established great fortifications upon the 
German frontier, and in the Baltic, and 
of the system of corruption, intimida¬ 


tion, and intrigue carried on by her 
in the German Courts. Have the noble 
Lord’s logical faculties been so impaired 
at Vienna, that he does not see that the 
obvious reply to him is : which of the 
Four Points was to rectify these evils— 
which of them was to put a stop to the 
erection of fortifications in the Baltic, or 
to prevent Russia from interfering with 
the German Courts? There is surely 
no guarantee against the rebuilding of 
Bomarsund, or for the security of the 
Circassians. The independence, free¬ 
dom, and civilisation of the world, seem 
to be entirely forgotten by the noble 
Lord when he goes to Vienna, for he 
then drops down to the sole miserable 
expedient of limiting the Russian fleet. 
If we go into another place, what is the 
language held by Lord Clarendon ? I 
felt great astonishment at the speech that 
noble Lord made the other night; I 
suppose it was calculated to obtain some 
object for the moment, but I doubt 
whether it will attain any permanent 
object which will be satisfactory to the 
noble Lord. He talks in the same strain, 
and denounces Russia as if he had never 
been a party to these arrangements with 
regard to Wallachia and Moldavia. 
Some of the noble Lord’s observations 
with respect to the strength of Sebastopol 
were, I think, disingenuous; forhe asked, 
why should the Russians have such an 
immense collection of materials, if it was 
not intended for some great aggression ? 
But the noble Lord could not be ignor¬ 
ant that the great strength of Sebastopol 
had been created since our army ap¬ 
peared before it, and that ammunition 
and provisions have been arriving in 
convoys of from 500 to, as Lord Raglan 
has himself stated, 2,000 carts at a time. 
To talk in such a strain immediately 
after the Conferences, was not worthy of 
the audience the noble Lord addressed, 
and hardly complimentary to the English 
public. The noble Lord the Member 
for London also alluded to Germany in 
a way which will hardly be looked upon 
in that country as a proof of his good 
sense or wisdom. He talked of the 
corruption of the German Courts, and 




RUSSIAN WAR. It. 


3^7 


1855- 

of the manner in which they were inter¬ 
fered with and controlled by the Russian 
Government; but, from what we are in¬ 
formed by the newspapers is going on in 
Germany, I fancy we are much mistaken 
as to the tendency of public opinion, if 
we suppose there is any difference of 
views between the people and the Go¬ 
vernments of Germany with regard to 
the war. I am told, and I have taken 
some pains to inquire—it is our duty to 
take pains in such a matter — that there 
is no party in Germany which wants to 
join in this war. There may be many 
who are well-wishers to our cause, and 
others whose sympathies are with Russia; 
but I am informed, and I believe cor¬ 
rectly, that there is no party in Germany 
who wishes to break the peace, and 
enter into hostilities with Russia in the 
present quarrel. And if you reflect for 
a moment upon the past history of 
Germany, in relation to France and 
Russia, you will see reason why in their 
traditions there should be no feelings 
of dread and hostility to Russia. The 
past recollections of Germany are in¬ 
deed favourable rather than otherwise 
to Russia, and hostile to France. It 
may be thought the wrong moment to 
say it, but I hold that upon this question, 
and upon all other questions, we should 
speak in this House without reserve, as 
if our debates were not published; and 
I say it is very well known that the 
feeling in Prussia and the north of 
Germany is one of dread of France. 
This feeling may have arisen in part from 
the long sufferings and dreadful sacrifices 
made by the people of Prussia and 
Northern Germany in the great revolu¬ 
tionary war with France, but it also 
arises in part from the circumstance that 
France is contiguous to the Rhenish 
provinces of Prussia, and it has been 
thought that she entertains rather envious 
feelings towards them. But, whatever 
may be the cause, there is in every cottage 
of Prussia a recollection rather favourable 
to Russia than hostile, as compared with 
France. There is, indeed, hanging in 
almost every cottage in Prussia some 
memorial of the atrocities and sufferings 


caused by the French in the last war, 
while the traditions with regard to Russia 
are, that she helped to emancipate them 
from the rule of Napoleon. This may 
show why Germany is not so anxious to 
enter into hostilities with Russia. There 
is another reason. You forget that in 
this war you have never committed your¬ 
selves to any principle which shall be 
a permanent safeguard against Russia. 
You have invited Germany to enter into 
war with Russia, her next-door neigh¬ 
bour, and a powerful neighbour, for 
your purposes; but you have given 
Germany no security that Russia, at the 
close of the war, will not retaliate upon 
that Power. And now it may be said, 
since the result of the Conferences is 
known, that you have gone to Vienna, 
and, after talking so boldly about fight¬ 
ing the battle of Germany, of Europe, 
and of the whole civilised world, you 
have dropped your pretensions, and do 
not say a word about giving security to 
any part of the Continent of Europe. 

I was talking, the other day, to a gen¬ 
tleman in this country, a Prussian, who 
has more right to speak in the name of his 
countrymen than any man here. He said, 

‘ I confess I think you Englishmen are 
unreasonable, and a little arrogant. You 
expect us to go to war with Russia—we, 
a nation of 16,000,000 or 17,000,000, 
against a nation of 60,000,000. But you 
do not take into account, that when you 
are tired of the war you can withdraw 
and occupy an impregnable position, 
while we are always at the door of this 
vast empire; and yet you try to hound 
us into this war, and to force us into it, 
without allowing us a voice in the mat¬ 
ter. Your conduct is that of a man who 
tries to drive a dog to make an attack 
upon a bull.’ Well, if we look back 
upon the course we have pursued, is there 
not something that warrants this opinion? 

I warn the noble Lord the Member 
for the City of London, that, in dealing 
with Germany, he has to do with an 
educated people, every man of whom 
reads his newspaper, and where the 
middle classes are so educated that you 
may buy bread in the Latin language, if 



*a8 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNK S, 


you do not know German. Is it not, 
then, rather arrogant and unreasonable, 
when the noble Lord in this House de¬ 
nounces the whole German people as 
having been corrupted by Russia ? I say 
that, if the English people had the con¬ 
scription, as they have in Prussia, so that 
when war was declared every man in the 
country would be liable to be called out, 
and every horse and cart might be taken 
for the purposes of the army, we should 
be more chary how we called out for 
war. Our pot-house politicians would 
not then be calling out for war with 
Russia, but we should have a Govern¬ 
ment who would take a more moderate 
tone than this does, for it would require 
those sacrifices that bring home the 
miseries of war to the people. 

I have said from the first, and I said it 
long before you sent a man from these 
shores, ‘ If you make war upon Russia, 
vindicate your rights or avenge your 
wrongs with your own strong arm, the 
navy; but do not send a man to the 
Continent or Turkey in the capacity of a 
land force. Do not send an army over the 
backs of the whole population of central 
Europe, where you have 1,000,000 men 
with bayonets in their hands, who stand 
between you and the gigantic Power that 
you are opposed to, and affect to dread.’ 
I say that you ought to have occupied 
the same ground that Austria and Prussia 
took ; and if you had done so, instead of 
rushing into war—driven into it, I ad¬ 
mit, by the populace and the press — 
you would have been right, for you have 
it proved now that Austria and Germany 
would have averted these evils that you 
dread, for Austria and Prussia would 
have made it a casus belli, if Russia 
had crossed the Balkan. And why, I 
want to know, were you not content to 
remain in England, in your island home, 
your inaccesible fortress, sending your 
fleet into the Black Sea, if you chose, 
and telling Austria and Germany, ‘ Here 
is a great danger; here is a mighty 
Power that threatens to engulph this 
fair Europe ; if you take your part for 
its protection, our fleet shall help you, 
and we will take care that no harm shall 


come to Turkey by sea, but not a soldier 
shall move from England until you put 
yourself in motion for the defence of 
Turkey? ’ 

Why, Sir, will any one now say that 
this would not have been a wise policy ? 
But then it is said, that if we had done 
this, the Russians would have been in 
Constantinople. No, they would not ; 
for this is my whole argument—and I 
am coming to it — that Austria and 
Southern Germany have more interest 
in keeping the Russians from Constanti¬ 
nople than we have. I have heard and 
read in Hansard , that every leading 
statesman in this or the other House of 
Parliament, within the last eighteen 
months, has declared that Austria and 
Germany are more interested in this 
question than we are. It has been stated 
by the noble Lord the Member for Tiver¬ 
ton (Viscount Palmerston); it has been 
asserted by the noble Lord the Member 
for London (Lord John Russell); it has 
been stated by Lord Clarendon; it has 
been asserted by Earl Derby; it has been 
alleged by Lord Lyndhurst. In fact, 
there is not a leading mind in either 
House of Parliament who has not told 
us that Austria and Germany have a 
greater interest in this war than we 
have. Well, then, in the name of com¬ 
mon sense, why did not we, who were 
infinitely safer from this alleged great 
danger, wait until those, who had a 
greater interest than we had, chose to 
move with us ? Why should we go from 
our position of security, if these pusil¬ 
lanimous empires would not step in ? I 
know it has been said, that we are fight¬ 
ing the battle of civilisation. Yes, we 
are fighting the battle of civilisation with 
30,000 or 40,000 men ; and I believe 
we have never had more than 30,000 
men in the Crimea at any one time. 

I see it stated by the Times corre¬ 
spondent, who re-states what he has be¬ 
fore asserted, that we have lost half our 
army because we had not sufficient men 
to do duty in the trenches. But is that 
the proper function and duty of English¬ 
men, to fight for Germany, because the 
Germans are corrupt and will not fight 



RUSSIAN WAR. It. 


3«9 


1855- 

for themselves? Give me rather the 
doctrine propounded by Prince Gorts- 
chakoff at Vienna, and let the blood of 
Englishmen be for England and the 
English. Now, I do not say this in 
disparagement of Austria and Germany. 

I maintain, on the contrary, that they 
have taken a more enlightened and calmer 
view of this question than we have. But 
the English people, partly stimulated 
by the noble Lord the Member for the 
City of London—for he has been the 
great offender—the English people have 
clamoured for war, and they would not 
give time for those combinations to be 
formed that would have averted the 
danger, and would have enabled us to 
take common ground with Austria and 
Germany. 

But now, I say, that we know Austria 
and Germany will not act with us, are 
we to go on pursuing the same course ? 1 
It would most certainly be a curiosity 
to go through Hansard, during the last 
eighteen months, and take out the pas¬ 
sages in which statesmen have expressed 
the opinion that Austria was going to 
join us. The Government put it into 
the Speech of Her Majesty from the 
Throne ; and, as if that was not suffi¬ 
cient, they have been repeating it in 
every speech they have made ever since. 

I cannot even except the right hon. 
Gentleman the Member for Carlisle 
(Sir J. Graham). The right hon. Mem¬ 
ber for the University of Oxford (Mr. 
Gladstone), in his celebrated Budget 
speech, mentioned it as some compensa¬ 
tion for the income-tax, and said that 
while he was speaking it was probable 
that Austria had actually joined us. It 
is impossible to read all these extracts 
to the House ; but here is a specimen 
from the speech of the noble Lord the 
Member for London, delivered no later 
than December 22, 1854. The noble 
Lord said :— 

' If, however, Russia should not consent 
to such very moderate terms as it will be 
our duty to propose.I feel con¬ 

vinced that we shall, before the opening of 
the next campaign, have the alliance of 
Austria, both in offensive and defensive 
opirations. ’ 


Now, I ask, are you going to carry on 
the war upon land ? I mean, are you 
going to commit yourselves to take 
Sebastopol ? Are you about to re-com- 
mence the war for an object which you 
have repudiated ? because, although the 
noble Lord and the right hon. Gentlemen 
who sit on the Treasury-benches, come 
here one day and tell us one story, and 
another day tell us another story (I ad¬ 
mit, we, on this bench, have been be¬ 
guiled by them, but I promise them we 
will behave better, and be more cautious 
for the future) — although, I say, we 
allow this to go on, foreign Govern¬ 
ments are not deceived by such double 
dealing, and it is seen by these protocols, 
which are published all over the world, 
that our Government proposed, in the 
late Conferences, to withdraw from the 
Crimea, leaving Sebastopol a ‘ standing 
menace’ as before. That is the pro¬ 
posal made by our own Government. 
The only difference between us and 
Russia is the infinitesimal question of 
the armed ships ; and I agree with my 
right hon. Friend the Member for Man¬ 
chester (Mr. M. Gibson), that for the 
safety of Turkey, the Russian proposal 
is better than that of the Allies. 

Now, everybody knows that we are 
re-commencing the war with the deter¬ 
mination— at least, if we can gather 
from the language of the noble Lord 
and the right hon. Gentleman what they 
mean—with the determination to take 
Sebastopol. But I would ask those 
upon whom the responsibility for the 
future rests, whether it is worth the 
blood and treasure which we must pour 
out like water in order that we may take 
Sebastopol (if we take it at all),—if, on 
the other hand, the capture of the place 
is to be accompanied by that policy of 
the Government which, I think, will 
prevent as much as anything their ob¬ 
taining any popular support on the Con¬ 
tinent, namely, that under no circum¬ 
stances will they make any change in 
the existing territorial arrangements of 
Europe ? If that policy is adhered to, 
there seems to be no other object in 
taking Sebastopol than knocking about 






JUNE 5, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


33 ° 

the ears of brave men a certain amount 
of bricks, mortar, and rubbish—sacri¬ 
ficing an immense amount of human 
life, in order that we may point to those 
mounds and say, ‘ We did it;’ although 
Russia may, after the peace, borrow 
the money of any banking-house in 
London, and in three years build it up 
again stronger than ever. 

Now, what is the plan, what the ob¬ 
ject, of this re-commencement of the 
war ? Is it to reduce the preponder¬ 
ance of Russia in the Black Sea ? Let 
us discard passion, and bring this ques¬ 
tion to the test of our own homely com¬ 
mon sense. Let us take, for example, 
some other country. Suppose it w 7 as 
proposed to reduce the preponderance 
of the United States of America in the 
Gulf of Mexico ; what would be the 
train of reasoning, in the absence of all 
passion, and with the benefits of un¬ 
clouded intellects ? Should we not 
naturally say, the preponderance of 
America in the Gulf of Mexico springs 
from her possessing New Orleans, the 
great outlet of the commerce of the 
Southern States, and from her having 
vast and fertile territories on the banks 
of the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the 
Ohio, where many millions of industri¬ 
ous men are cultivating the soil, and 
adding to the internal wealth of that 
great empire ? and would not the con¬ 
clusion be ; this is a natural preponder¬ 
ance, inherent in the very nature of her 
territory, and her occupation? Now, 
then, turn your eyes to the Black Sea, 
and you have precisely the same causes, 
leading to the same consequences. 
Why has Russia preponderance in the 
Black Sea ? Because she has fertile 
provinces, which are cultivated and 
made productive, and rich and prosper¬ 
ous ports and harbours, where her com¬ 
merce is carried on. I was speaking 
lately to a gentleman who knows that 
country well, and has the largest com¬ 
mercial relations with it of any man in 
Englan 1 , and he tells me that he does 
not believe there is any part of the 
United States of America which has 
made such rapid progress in wealth and 


internal production, since the repeal of 
our Corn-laws, as those southern pro¬ 
vinces of Russia. It was estimated that 
Russia exported the year before last, 
from ports in the Black Sea, 5,000,000 
quarters of grain of all kinds ; and the 
calculation has been made, that if for 
the next twenty years those exports went 
on increasing as they have increased 
during the last five years, Russia would 
then be exporting from 15,000,000 to 
20,000,000 quarters of grain annually. 
Believe me, that is the source of Russian 
preponderance. The country is develop¬ 
ing itself. I admit, if you please, it is 
a youthful barbarism, but it will, doubt¬ 
less, grow into something better ; and, 
so long as a vast amount of produce is 
brought into the Black Sea for shipment 
to the rest of the world—so long as the 
territory of Russia borders on that sea, 
with no other neighbour than Turkey— 
a country wholly unproductive and un¬ 
improving, in comparison — all the 
Powers on earth cannot take away the 
preponderance of Russia, because it is 
founded in the inherent nature of things. 

What, I again ask, are we fighting 
for ? It has been whispered that we are 
fighting because it is more the wish of 
France that we should fight than our 
own. But are we quite sure that the 
war now carrying on is not against the 
wishes of the French people? Gentle¬ 
men who have communications with 
France, and sources of private informa¬ 
tion, tell me they hear that the war, 
never looked upon enthusiastically, is 
regarded with more and more dislike by 
the French people. What is the wish 
of the French Government? I know I 
am about to tread on delicate ground, 
but I hold it is our duty to speak out in 
the face of such mighty events, and, as 
I believe, possible calamities, as are im¬ 
pending over this country. I come, 
then, to this point : Is it the wish of 
the French Government that this war 
should be carried on, or is it ours ? It 
is industriously whispered, that the 
French dynasty has so much at stake, 
that it dare not withdraw the army from 
Sebastopol, on account of the moral 





RUSSIAN WAR. It. 


1855 - 

effect it would produce on the French 
people and on the army. My hon. 
Friend (Mr. Bright) and myself received 
a communication of some authenticity, 
as we believed, that the French Govern¬ 
ment had given an intimation to our 
Government, that they were willing, if 
we were, to accept an alternative upon 
the terms which are the last published 
proposals in the protocols which have 
been presented to us. We all know a 
meeting of' what was called the ‘ party 
supporting the Government ’ was sum¬ 
moned not long since at the noble Lord’s 
office in Downing-street. There and 
then, after the noble Lord had said it 
was for the purpose of private and con¬ 
fidential communication, and that the 
newspaper press were not present, he 
was asked by the hon. Member for 
Manchester (Mr. Bright) whether what 
we had heard and believed to be true 
was founded upon fact—that intimation 
had come from the French Government 
to lead our Government to understand 
that terms similar to those offered at 
Vienna by M. Drouyn de Lhuys would 
be accepted, and that a refusal had been 
given by our Government ? The noble 
Lord refused to answer that inquiry, 
though he was pressed to do so. I my¬ 
self pressed him to answer, and, that it 
may not be supposed I am committing 
any breach of confidence, I said, if he 
would answer the question—merely say, 
No—I should treat it confidentially ; 
but if he allowed me to go out of the 
room with a confirmed impression of 
that which I had received from very 
good sources, I should make no secret 
of what had passed there. 

Now, I say, this is a most serious 
thing for this country, for this reason : 
You have now contrived to detach all 
Germany from you—that is to say, you 
have no hope of Germany or Austria join- 
ingyou. It is a matter nowdecided. You 
cannot delude yourselves now with the 
hope that Austria or Germany will take 
part in this contest. But what will be your 
fate if, by-and-by, it can be proved that 
England has been the cause of recom¬ 
mencing this war, contrary to the inclin- 


33 * 

ations of the French Government and 
the French people? May it not by pos¬ 
sibility lead to the very opposite of what 
we are all hoping from this union be¬ 
tween the two countries ? May it not 
lead to further estrangement ? and then 
see in what a responsibility it lands you. 
If you are more opposed to coming to 
terms of peace than France is, does it 
not throw on you the responsibility of 
doing something very different from 
what you are now doing towards carry¬ 
ing on the war ? Will it not, by-and-by, 
be found that your force is small, and 
the French force is great ? I do not think 
this is the proper time to bring up the 
whole particulars, but I marked two 
observations on two particular occasions. 
The hon. Member for Inverness-shire 
(Mr. H. Baillie) stated that our forces 
are 40,000 short of the number voted in 
this House. The noble Lord (Lord J. 
Russell) stated last December that our 
forces were then 20,000 short of the 
number voted in this House. The hon. 
Member for Inverness-shire stated that 
our militia regiments are reduced to mere 
skeletons, and in Ireland and Scotland 
are almost disbanded, except the officers. 
But if this be true—if it be true that you 
still want 40,000 men to make up the 
number—may it not be found, by-and-by, 
that you are urging on this war in blind 
heedlessness, in the same way as every¬ 
thing has been done by this Government 
from the beginning, and that you have 
not looked three months before you to 
see what may be the consequences of the 
want of that foresight which the Govern¬ 
ment ought to have shown ? I am speak¬ 
ing of the present moment, when the 
country is under a state of excitement. 
But those who have intelligence, and 
those who have studied the maps of the 
country, may readily understand and see 
how much has been made out of a little; 
and that there has been much said, with¬ 
in the last few days, which it will be 
found the results do not justify. 

I have said that I set no limits to the 
power of France and England, provided 
they would put out that power, and ex¬ 
hibit their strength; but I am not quite 




332 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 5, 


sure that you are in a better condition in 
the Crimea now than you were before 
this recent achievement at Kertch. I 
once asked a Russian merchant what 
were the actual means of supply of food 
derived by Russia, and I did not learn 
that Kertch was at all relied upon for any 
great supply to the army in Sebastopol. 
I was assured that this was the fact; 
and if so, it may be accepted as a quali¬ 
fication of the great excitement that has 
been raised in consequence of our late 
achievements in the Sea of Azoff. A 
large holder of corn, deposited at Kertch, 
told me that the Russian Government 
had informed him that they could not 
be responsible for the safety of his com. 
This was five months ago. Long before 
the Conferences at Vienna, he gave 
notice of this to his agents at Kertch, 
and also at other parts on the coast of the 
Sea of Azoff. I believe there has been 
a great deal of exaggeration about this 
little expedition to the Sea of Azoff; but 
if there has not been, then greater is the 
disgrace that attaches to those who had 
not executed it sooner. I am not sure 
that this expedition had any higher 
motive than that of a desire to do some¬ 
thing which should gratify the people of 
this country: for the cry of the people 
always is, ‘ Do something.’ But my 
opinion is, that, whenever any individual, 
whether he be a Minister of State, or a 
Commander-in-chief, does something 
merely because he is told by somebody 
else to do it, that that something, in 
nine cases out of ten, is wrong. I am 
not sure that even the expedition to 
Sebastopol itself had any higher mo¬ 
tive than that of a wish to do something 
that should gratify the wishes of the 
people. But, at all events, I give it as 
my opinion, that, while your expedition 
in the Sea of Azoff has led to the de¬ 
struction of a vast amount of private pro¬ 
perty, and while it will add no renown 
to your name, I believe it will have no 
better effect on the result of the war 
than your marauding expedition in the 
Gulf of Finland last year. I believe 
that the great sources of relief to the 
army in Sebastopol are Perekop and 


Simpheropol. Both those places are 
fortified as well as Sebastopol, and it is 
through them that supplies of food are 
obtained for the Russian army. 

Well, then, about the difficulty of 
transporting food to the Russian army 
across the steppes to the Crimea, I was 
talking to a merchant of Odessa on that 
subject; and he said, that in time of 
peace thousands of carts and waggons, 
drawn by bullocks, were employed for 
conveying articles of commerce over 
these vast steppes to Odessa, Taganrog, 
and other ports on the Sea of Azoff; but 
that the war having suspended all that, 
the Russian Government would now avail 
itself of those same means of transport¬ 
ation for conveying supplies from Pere¬ 
kop and Simpheropol to Sebastopol. 
This has, in fact, been already done. 

Now, I ask, is it not better for us that 
we should view these things in this light, 
than give ourselves up to the efferves¬ 
cence prevailing out of doors ? Is it 
not better to look calmly at these things, 
and consider what it is that Russia can 
really do, than to yield up our feelings 
to a momentary, and, it may be, a 
doubtful triumph ? But when I said 
that the power of England and of France 
united could hardly be resisted by any 
single power in Europe, or the world, 

1 did not forget that there was one 
power, a single and a hidden power, by 
which the mightiest armies may be van¬ 
quished—pestilence and disease. I have 
read an extract from a report of Mr. 
Spencer, giving an account of a tour in 
the Crimea, and of the influence of the 
climate, which had sole reference to the 
summer season. I never heard of any 
one necessarily suffering in the winter 
season. On the contrary, my belief is, 
that, let a man be well fed, well clothed, 
and well sheltered, he may live any¬ 
where; and there is no necessity that 
the constitutions of Englishmen should 
suffer more in winter in the Crimea than 
in England. But that is not the case in 
summer. The best authorities tell you 
that it is hardly possible for an English¬ 
man in the Crimea, or a foreigner, un¬ 
less he take every possible precaution, 







RUSSIAN WAR. II. 


S3S 


i8ss- 

to escape infection in the summer months 
of July, August, and September. You 
sin against the law of nature if you go 
out in the sun in the day, and you 
equally sin if you go out in the night 
dews. Such, again, is the effect of the 
climate, that if you partake of new com, 
or of fruit in undue measure, these things 
will bring on intermittent fever. Now, 
these precautions our soldiers disregard, 
as they ever have disregarded, and there¬ 
fore is it that I dread the months of July, 
August, and September, for our troops 
in the Crimea. Has all this been 
thought of by the Government? Does 
it not devolve on them to consider these 
things ? Whatever may be the fate of 
our army in the Crimea this summer, 
upon them, I say, and upon their should¬ 
ers, will rest the responsibility. If they 
should be fortunate—if pestilence and 
disease should happily not approach ; 
but a deviation, as it were, in the succes¬ 
sion of the climate should take placet- 
then the honour and the glory, such as 
it may be, will undoubtedly be shared 
by thexn, and any successful enterprise 
of our army will redound to their repute. 
But if, on the other hand, your army 
should be destroyed by pestilence and 
disease, if there should be a repetition 
of the disasters of the last winter, then 
your power will be at an end; and be 
assured that, to effect the destruction of 
your power, there is nothing short of 
physical violence that may not happen 
to you. Nothing can happen but dis¬ 
grace from the miserable pretences ad¬ 
vanced in support of this war. When 
the Government was showing forth in 
magniloquent phrases the great objects 
of the war, well might the people be 
deluded; but now they know the state of 
things better, now they know that the 
war wholly depends upon so trifling a 
matter as that of allowing ingress and 
egress of foreign ships into and from the 
Black Sea. It is on such an infinites¬ 
imal point of difference that this war, 
involving so vast a sacrifice of life, and 
wealth, and human happiness, depends. 
Is there not, then, I would ask, some¬ 
thing resting upon us as the House of 


Commons in this matter ? Have not 
hon. Gentlemen noticed the state to 
which the argument has been brought ? 
Have they not observed to what public 
opinion has been brought on this sub¬ 
ject out of doors? No man seems to 
know his friend; no man seems to have 
confidence in public men. One serious 
difficulty in carrying on this war is the 
want of an open and frank declaration 
of opinion on the part of public reput¬ 
ations. 

But there are other circumstances that 
ought to make us reflect. I allude not 
to the possibility of a bad harvest; but 
there are possible contingencies which 
may place this country in a most perilous 
condition, and that chiefly arising, as I 
have said, from the utter want of confid¬ 
ence in public men. But how has that 
want of confidence arisen? My belief is, 
that it is because public men have been 
wanting in self-respect. It is because 
they have too readily yielded up their 
better judgment to the momentary in¬ 
spiration or dictation of others. What 
are we, the Members of this House, set 
apart for, but to study these high matters 
—to devote our thoughts to the consider¬ 
ation of questions involving the well¬ 
being of our countrymen, and to promote 
to the utmost of our capacity the pros¬ 
perity of those whose interests are con¬ 
fided to us ? It is true, the public out 
of doors have gone heartily with the 
Government in this war; but we all 
know that the public have entertained 
very erroneous notions as to what was 
the object of the war, and as to what 
would be its ultimate effect. 

What was the tone of public opinion 
when the war broke out ? Did it not 
exhibit the grossest arrogance and ignor¬ 
ance of the enemy we had to contend 
with? Did we—did the country—did 
the press, speak as if we were going 
3,000 miles to invade an empire of 
60,000,000 people? I rest my case 
entirely upon your infatuation in invad- 
1 ing Russia with a land force. If you had 
confined yourselves to naval operations 
—if you had done that which I believe 
1 the House of Commons would have 



334 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 5, 


done, if it had acted upon its own judg¬ 
ment—in what a different position you 
now would have been ! There would 
have been none of this discontent; you 
vould have sent out your ships, the 
greatest spectacle of a naval armament 
that ever left your shores ; there would 
have been no misery, no disease, no 
want of discipline, no disasters there. 
Your ships rode triumphant upon every 
sea, and if they had not come back vic¬ 
torious, owing to the enemy keeping 
behind his fortifications, they would, at 
least, have presented no spectacle of 
abject misery and signal distress. It is 
your attempt to do too much, without 
knowing what you were about, which 
has brought this calamity upon you. 

Much as I blame Lord Raglan for not 
making a road, and for mismanagement 
in carrying on the war, yet I contend 
that, if you send an army to invade 
Russia, you must prepare yourselves for 
inevitable disaster. You may repair 
that disaster, possibly. It may be so ; 
but when you determine to invade an 
empire consisting of 60,000,000 of people 
3,000 miles off, I say that the thing was 
undertaken in blind obedience to a cry 
out of doors, against and over which the 
statesmen of this country ought to have 
exercised a counteracting influence and 
control. 

You sent a land force 3,000 miles 
away to subdue your colonists in America. 
That force had a population of from 
2,300,000 to 3,000,000 to contend with. 
It was miserably worsted. Mismanage¬ 
ment, no doubt, existed there ; but, if 
there had been no mismanagement, how 
long, I ask, could that war have endured? 
We know the history of the invasion of 
Russia by Napoleon I. He invaded that 
empire supported by half a million of 
bayonets, and there was, at all events, 
this much logic and argument in his 
proposition, that he said, ‘ I will strike 
at the heart of the empire, and will take 
security for peace in the capital of 
Russia. ’ But you are not going to the 
heart of Russia, with all Europe at your 
back, as he had ; for, with the exception 
of Spain, he had all Europe at his feet, 


and all her legions at his side. You 
know the result. You know the spirit 
of Russia then. Have you any reason 
to suppose that Russia now, with the 
stimulus of that example before her, will 
show a less stubborn resistance to you 
than she did to Napoleon I ? My firm 
belief is, that she will not. My belief is, 
that you have entered upon a task the 
most arduous and difficult which this 
nation ever undertook, and that you will 
have to put forth more than twice the 
energy, you will have to send more than 
twice the men, and to spend more than 
twice the money in one year, than you 
have yet done, before you will succeed 
in accomplishing the object you have in 
view. 

Ought we not, then, fairly to tell the 
people of this country that ? Ought we 
not to check them, rather than to encour¬ 
age their exaggerations ? Suppose you 
receive unexpected accounts of disasters 
from the Crimea, of prostrations from 
cholera, from intermittent fever, or from 
the plague—for who can tell what may 
happen? Is it not wise, instead of 
cheering the Minister, when he tells us 
that the Conferences are at an end, to 
endeavour to subdue the spirit of the 
country—I do not say to subdue its 
spirit in any righteous cause—but to let 
the people know fully and frankly what 
they have before them ? 

I blame the Government for having 
behaved falsely and treacherously to the 
people, and I tell them that there will 
be a day of reckoning for them in this 
matter. What said the noble Lord the 
Member for Tiverton, in one of those 
declamatory harangues with which he 
occasionally favours the House? He 
said, ‘ The people of this country are 
our reserve force, and we will equip our 
army from that reserve.’ I ask him what 
he is now doing with that reserve ? The 
noble Lord the Member for London said, 
at the end of last year, ‘ We shall have 
180,000 or 200,000 Englishmen under 
arms, and foreign levies to aid them.’ 
Where are the 180,000 or 200,000 Eng¬ 
lishmen? I say that there has been 
the same child’s play now, up to the last 



RUSSIAN WAR. IT. 


335 


i8 S5- 


minute, that there has been from the 
commencement. All I ask of you is, 
that you will deal candidly with the 
public. I have noticed in history, that 
if ever the mass of the people have 
become cruel, and revengeful, and un¬ 
reasoning in their violence to Govern¬ 
ments, it is invariably because they have 
been betrayed and deceived by them. 
There is nothing by which you will so 
surely risk the loss of public favour, and 
entail a great public calamity when your 
influence is gone, as by attempting to 
conceal from the people of this country 
the whole amount of difficulties and 
dangers which are now impending over 
you. 

It is in this spirit, and because I will 
not be responsible in the slightest degree 
for what may happen in this matter, that 
I wish to speak out on this occasion ; 
and I warn the House of Commons, that 
there are no institutions of the land 
which may not be endangered from the 
reaction which may result from your 
over-sanguine confidence in what you 
are undertaking. I have seen a spirit 
out of doors which is preparing for sud¬ 
den and strange freaks of revenge, under 
a sense of bitter mortification and disap¬ 
pointment ; I have seen those who have 
been the first to clamour for war, after 
the earliest disasters of the campaign, 
meeting together to denounce those who 
are the highest in the land as the most 
responsible; and when I see what has 
been the line pursued, in the face of what 
I must believe to be superior knowledge 
—when I see the way in which, in high 
places, the passions of the people have 
been pandered to, and momentary tri¬ 
umph sought at the risk of great future 
disaster—I must say that I think those 
who adopt such conduct deserve the 
retribution which I have spoken of. 

There was a meeting recently held in 
Derby, which was reported in the London 
papers, and it was one of those meetings 
which were described as the beginning 
of an agitation which was to cover the 
land. My hon. Friend the Member for 
Derby was present; and what was the 
tone of that meeting? It was called, 


j mind you, by the inhabitants of Derby, 
for the purpose of instructing their 
Members, and the meeting was held up 
as onewhich should be imitated through¬ 
out the country. It is good and whole¬ 
some for us, therefore, to hear what was 
said upon that occasion. I find the Rev. 
W. Griffiths speaking there after this 
fashion :— 

' For myself, I say, that whatever mea¬ 
sures are proposed, if they are meant for 
the benefit of the few, and not to promote 
the interests of the many, I would say, 
Down with the coronets, if they are to ruin 
the nation ! I have no objection to coron¬ 
ets, ribands, nor to the gewgaws which 
illumine certain illustrious houses—illustri¬ 
ous by courtesy—provided they will keep 
all the pleasure and injury of them to 
themselves ; but if we are to be robbed, 
over-taxed, and have unjust and unequal 
laws, just because a few coroneted heads 
choose to have it so, then the time is come 
when the working men of Great Britain 
must look the aristocracy in the face, de¬ 
mand the why and the wherefore, and not 
be content with a shilly-shally answer. 
One word more. There will be more money 
wanted ere long—the young Prince will 
want a wife, and then he will want a mar¬ 
riage settlement. I say, let him get it from 
his father and mother, who have enough 
to keep them all. You must begin there. 
It is no use cutting off twigs, and letting 
huge branches remain. I, for one, think 
that one palace is enough for one Sove¬ 
reign.’ 

A Mr. Parkinson seconded the resolu¬ 
tion, saying that— 

1 It had been proved, to the satisfaction 
of the meeting, that they were governed 
by an aristocratic Government who were 
incompetent for their work ; therefore it 
was the duty of every man to endeavour to 
destroy the system under w'hich they had 
been so misruled.’ 

Now, I have been considered not to have 
dealt always very gently with the aris¬ 
tocracy of this country; but I should 
say to that rev. gentleman, from what I 
have noticed of these proceedings, that 
for whatever disasters may happen in 
this country, there is not one member of 




S3 6 

the aristocracy, out of the Cabinet, whom 
I should consider responsible as an indi¬ 
vidual for these disasters. So far as I 
am concerned, I will never truckle so 
low to the popular spirit of the moment 
as to join in any cry which shall divert 
the mass of the people from what I be¬ 
lieve should be their first thought and 
consideration, namely, how far they 
themselves are responsible for the evils 
which may fall upon the land, and how 
far they should begin at home before 
they commence to find fault with others. 
The first thing that multitudes of men 
do, when they fall into errors, is to seek 
for victims, and this ought to be a warn¬ 
ing to those who have influence in the 
land not to stimulate the passions which 
we have lately seen prevailing in the 
country, unless they can see some tan- 


JUNE 5, 1855. 

! gible and satisfactory result to arise from 
1 the passions they rouse. 

That is all my case. If the Russians 
were besieging Portsmouth, I should not 
talk about what was to be done; and if 
I could not work in the field, I would 
do so in the hospital. I should not then 
ask for any one to allay the excitement 
of the people ; but I now repeat—and 
I have repeated it again and again—you 
have undertaken a war with an empire 
of 60,000,000 of people 3,000 miles 
away, and the people of this country, 
and those who guide them, do not fully 
appreciate the importance, the magni¬ 
tude, and the danger of this undertaking; 
and that is why I have counselled moder¬ 
ation and caution, and why I have made 
the present long—and, lam afraid, some¬ 
what tedious—appeal to the House. 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 




RUSSIAN WAR. 

hi. 

MANCHESTER, MARCH 18, 1857. 


[On March 3, 1837, the House of Commons affirmed, by a majority of 14 (263 to 249), 
Mr. Cobden's resolution on the conduct of the China war. This was treated by Lord 
Palmerston as a vote of want of confidence, and an appeal was made to the country. 
No time was lost in summoning a new Parliament, and no pains spared to inflame the 
public mind against those who had challenged Lord Palmerston's policy. The sit¬ 
ting Members in Manchester had been Mr. Bright and Mr. Milner Gibson. Their 
re-election was opposed by Sir John Potter and Mr. Turner, and was opposed suc¬ 
cessfully. As Mr. Bright was suffering from illness, Mr. Cobden advocated his 
cause before the Manchester electors, in the following Speech, which deals chiefly 
with the policy of Lord Palmerston in the Russian war.] 


I appear before you on this occasion 
as th e humble represen tative of my friend, 
Mr. Bright, and in his name I thank you 
in the outset for the kind reception with 
which you have greeted the mention of 
his name, and I thank you also for the 
all but unanimous vote with which you 
have announced his candidature at this 
election. 

Now, I appear before you on the pre¬ 
sent occasion under circumstances which 
I certainly never expected to encounter 
again. I have, on former occasions, 
found my name prominently associated 
with measures in the House of Commons 
and in the country, that have led to dis¬ 
solutions of Parliament, and to the fall 
of Ministries. That was when I was 
connected with those movements in 
which our object was to cause dissolu¬ 
tions of Parliament and destructions of 
Ministries. For three times, I believe, 
Parliament has been dissolved, the fact 
arising out of questions with which my 
name was prominently associated. But 
I certainly never did expect to see again 


a dissolution with which I should be 
associated. Now, what are the circum¬ 
stances under which this has arisen? 
You have heard something about the 
China war. I am not going into the 
details of that war again. 1 only want 
just to lay before you, in the briefest 
possible form, the circumstances in which 
the country has been placed with refer¬ 
ence to that question. On the assembling 
of Parliament, we found ourselves en¬ 
gaged in two wars,—the one with an 
empire of 350,000,000 of people, with 
a territory about eight times as great as 
that of France, and about ten times the 
population ; the other was with Persia, 
one of the most ancient empires of the 
world. Parliament and the people had 
had no voice in declaring these wars ; 
troops were moving from India to Bu- 
shire, troops were moving from Ceylon 
to Hongkong, and war was going on at 
our expense, and you had no. voice in 
declaring that war. On the assembling 
of Parliament, a demand was made from 
the Ministry for information respecting 
22 




338 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH iS, 


the Persian war. The answer we got 
was, that it would be contrary (it is the 
stereotyped answer), that it would be 
prejudicial, to the interests of the country 
that any papers should be given referring 
to the origin of the Persian war. But 
I found on the table of the House of 
Commons all the papers having reference 
to the Chinese war. Now, it is a very 
rare thing indeed that we are so fortunate 
as to find such a record of what is going 
on in our name and behalf. But I found 
the papers all in order, and everything 
that could be had to give an account of 
the origin of the Chinese war. I read 
those papers, as I was in duty bound to do. 
The conclusion I came to I stated in my 
place in the House of Commons, and I am 
not going to repeat the arguments now. 
But what I want to ask here is, what 
I asked in London the other day, was 
it anything contrary to my duty as a 
Member of Parliament, and as a repre¬ 
sentative of the people, that I should 
read those papers, and express an opin¬ 
ion, and call for an opinion of the House 
with reference to proceedings which were 
involving this country in daily expense, 
and which might undoubtedly incur a 
vast expense, both of blood and treasure? 

Well, I read the papers; and, coming 
to the conviction that the origin of this 
war was a blunder and a crime, I framed 
a resolution, which I showed to my right 
hon. Friend here, and asked him if he 
would like to second it; and, with¬ 
out consulting any other human being, 
I put that motion on the table of the 
House of Commons, and it lay there for 
a fortnight before my turn came for 
bringing on the motion. Singular to 
say—for it is an unusual thing—not one 
word of that resolution, nor one syll¬ 
able, was altered to accommodate the 
mind of any Member of the House of 
Commons. 

Well, I am told—and we hear it daily 
repeated in the columns of some of the 
London papers, whose audacity of as¬ 
sertions certainly sometimes astounds 
me even, though I am habituated to the 
perusal of the Times newspaper; but 
there is still every day the reiterated 


falsehood, as if the people had not yet 
had enough of it, that this was a motion 
brought forward in a factious spirit, and 
with a coalition of parties, in order, 
forsooth, that we might overturn the 
Government, and get possession of their 
places. 

Well, now, there is a great question 
involved in this, which I think the people 
of this country ought to take very much 
to heart. Do you want the Members 
of the House of Commons to look after 
your rights, and watch the expenditure, 
and to guard you from getting into need¬ 
less and expensive wars? [‘Yes.’] 
Well, but you are not going the right 
way to work about it, if what I hear in 
your newspapers is going to be verified 
in the course of a fortnight in the elec¬ 
tion ; for I am told that those Members 
who joined in that vigilant care of your 
interests, and voted according to the 
evidence before us on the question of 
that war, are all to be ostracised,—sent 
into private life,—and that you are going 
to send up there men—to do what ? to 
look after your interests? No; to go 
and do the humble, dirty work of the 
Minister of the hour. In fact, that you 
are going to constitute Lord Palmerston 
the despotic ruler of this country. [ ‘ No, 
no.’] Well, but if he is not checked by 
Parliament,—if, the moment Parliament 
does check him, he dissolves Parliament, 
and, instead of sending up men who are 
independent enough to assert their and 
your rights, you send up mere creatures 
of his will, what is that but investing 
him with the powers of a despot ! Ay, 
and let me tell you that it is a despotism 
of the clumsiest, most expensive, and 
at the same time most irresponsible 
kind on the face of the earth; because 
you surround the Minister with the sham 
appearance of a representative form of 
Government; you cannot get at him 
while he has got a Parliament beneath 
whose shield he can shelter himself; 
and if you do not do your duties in your 
elections in sending men up to the 
House of Commons who will vigilantly 
watch the Minister of the day, then, I 
say, you are in a worse plight, because 



RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


339 


1^57- 

governed in a more irresponsible way, 
than if you were under the King of 
Prussia or the Emperor of the French. 

But who is Lord Palmerston, that we 
are to invest him with this power ? Who 
is he? [‘A traitor.’] No, I will say 
nothing worse of him here than I have 
said to his face in Parliament; but, when 
I want to know what a man is, I ask, 
What has he done? There is no other 
test like that. That was Napoleon’s 
question always, if anybody talked to 
him about somebody being a great man, 
—What has he done? Well, now, Lord 
Palmerston has been fifty years in Par¬ 
liament—[‘Fifty-two’]; fifty-two years 
in Parliament. Well he has belonged, I 
believe, to every Government excepting 
one during those fifty years. I remem¬ 
ber the Times newspaper, which spent 
about fifteen years in trying to blacken 
his reputation, and is now polishing him 
up every day, once said, when it had 
said everything else that was gross, vile, 
and vituperative about him, that he had 
been ‘ boots ’ to every Administration 
for thirty years. Now I beg you to 
understand that this is the language of 
the Times, and not mine. But with what 
has his name been associated? [‘ Peter- 
loo.’] Yes, Peterloo. I remember, that 
on this very spot of ground, when the 
people were cut down and trampled upon 
by the yeomanry cavalry, Lord Palmer¬ 
ston was one of the Government, and 
voted in favour of that outrage. 

Well, but what has he done since?— 
because men may have been, in the early 
part of their career, by circumstances, 
like Sir Robert Peel, put into a certain 
groove, and hardly answerable for the 
course they were obliged to run. But 
what has he done since that he had been 
able to take his own choice? What does 
he propose now to do? He was a mem¬ 
ber of the Reform Ministry in 1831; he 
left his old party, and joined the Whigs 
as a Reformer. But was he one of those 
who put forward the cause of Reform, 
or was he there as a drag-chain? I have 
seen to-day a speech, which has been 
sent to me, delivered by Sir James 
Graham, at Carlisle. He says : — ‘ I 


and Lord John Russell are the only two 
Cabinet Ministers remaining alive who 
formed the Government which brought 
in the Reform Bill of 1831;’ and he says, 

‘ We had Lord Palmerston amongst us; 
but I very soon found out that he was 
not very much disposed for the work that 
we were engaged in.’ In December, 
1853,—that is, little more than three 
years ago,—he belonged to the Ministry 
of Lord Aberdeen. Now, Lord Aber¬ 
deen was, I considered, a very liberal 
man ; but we were all deluded with the 
idea that Lord Palmerston was the great 
champion of democracy, and Lord 
Aberdeen was always the friend of 
despotism ; — I was not taken in by 
that, but a good many people were. 

Well, but what did Lord Palmerston 
do in December, 1853, when Lord Aber¬ 
deen’s Government was preparing a new 
Reform Bill, to be brought in in the 
session of 1854? Lord Palmerston left 
Lord Aberdeen’s government because he 
objected to that modicum of Reform 
that was then proposed ; that bill, bear¬ 
ing on its back the names of Lord John 
Russell and Sir James Graham—cer¬ 
tainly not two very rash or democratic 
Reformers—that bill, which proposed 
to give a 10/. franchise to the counties, 
and a slightly reduced franchise to the 
boroughs, so slightly reduced that some 
of my friends thought it would rather 
operate as a restriction in some boroughs 
than an extension ; that bill was too 
much for Lord Palmerston to swallow ; 
and he left Lord Aberdeen’s Cabinet 
avowedly because he objected to that 
bill. Well, what has he done since? 
What has he done this very session ? 
Why, he has opposed everything that 
can bear the mere semblance of Reform. 
He voted against Locke King’s motion 
for a 10/. county franchise, which formed 
part of the bill of 1854 ; he has opposed 
even the 40^. freehold franchise for Scot¬ 
land, if you may believe the Lord-Ad¬ 
vocate of Scotland (Mr. Moncreiff), who 
is in the Ministry, for he has gone down 
there and announced that. 

Now, will you tell me on what ground 
I am to be called upon to sunender my 





34° 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH 18 , 


independence and freedom of thought 
and action to the will of a Ministry such 
as this ? Why, what do you propose to 
get by such a process ? It appears to 
me it is about the most audacious attempt 
upon your credulity that ever was prac¬ 
tised in this country, to think of raising 
the cry at an election in favour of one 
man,—for there is no other cry attempted 
on the hustings,—and for that man to 
be the leader of the Liberal party, with¬ 
out having one Liberal tenet in his pro¬ 
fession of faith. 

When I read of men that I have 
hitherto considered to be earnest Re¬ 
formers, — when I have read their 
speeches and addresses, in which they 
have said, ‘ I am for the ballot ; I am 
for the extension of the suffrage ; I am 
for shortening Parliaments; I am against 
church-rates ; and I will give my hearty 
support to Lord Palmerston’s Govern¬ 
ment,’— my natural question is, ‘Are 
these men idiots, or are they dishonest ? 
because, if you attempt to carry out a 
business in private life, you do not go to 
a man that you know is directly opposed, 
in his view, to what you wish to accom¬ 
plish, and put yourself under his guidance. 
Lord Palmerston is not content with a 
mere passive resistance to what you 
desire as Reformers. He lends an active 
opposition,—-he votes and speaks against 
every measure of Reform that is brought 
into the House of Commons. [Cheers.] 
Well, and what is it for ? Because we 
are told that Lord Palmerston is a great 
friend of freedom abroad. 

Well now, go and ask those men in 
this country who represent freedom 
abroad ;—ask Kossuth. I will tell you 
what happened within my knowledge ; 
it is no breach of confidence to say it. 
When that illustrious Hungarian was 
expected in England, after his imprison¬ 
ment in Turkey, my lamented friend, 
Lord Dudley Stuart—whose devotion to 
the cause of these foreign refugees was as 
unbounded as it was sincere—went down 
to Southampton to meet Kossuth, and 
receive him on his arrival. Having to 
wait a day or two there, and being in 
the neighbourhood of Broadlands, where | 


) Lord Palmerston lives, he went and saw 
the noble Lord, and received from him 
a request to bring Kossuth over (on his 
arrival at Southampton) to Broadlands, 
to see him. I remember receiving a 
letter from Lord Dudley Stuart, announ¬ 
cing to me this piece of intelligence with 
the greatest glee. He was delighted at 
the opportunity of taking Kossuth over 
to see Lord Palmerston; and, as soon 
at he arrived, he announced to him the 
pleasing invitation. To his astonishment, 
he found Kossuth would not accept it. 
He would not go near Lord Palmerston; 
and I have got a letter from Lord Dudley 
Stuart, asking me to use all my influence 
with Kossuth to induce him to go and 
call upon Lord Palmerston. He would 
not do it; and my answer to Lord Dudley 
Stuart was this:—‘You may depend 
upon it, Kossuth knows a great deal 
more about Lord Palmerston than you 
do. ’ I could not go into the particulars 
now, but they are all familiar to me. 

Eveiy transaction of Lord Palmer¬ 
ston’s foreign policy is known to me ; I 
defy any human being to show an instance 
where anybody on the face of the earth 
has been happier or freer in consequence 
of Lord Palmerston’s foreign policy. 
He endorsed the invasion of Rome by 
the French. We have it in the blue- 
books. He was the first, in red-hot 
haste, to congratulate the present Em¬ 
peror of the French after his usurpation, 
when the blood was still flowing in the 
streets of Paris. He refused to see an 
envoy sent from the Hungarians, because, 
he said, he could treat with nobody but 
the Austrian Government. He treated 
the Italians in the same way. Are these 
facts, or are they not? [‘Yes, yes.’] 
Nobody denies them. Do you think, 
then, it is consistent with common sense 
that the man who has no love for liberty 
or progress at home should have any love 
of the kind to export to foreign coun¬ 
tries ? Do you not think that liberalism, 
like liberality, like progress, like charity, 
should begin at home? 

Well, which other title does he present 
to our confidence, that the people of this 
country should be called upon by the 





RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


34i 


! 857 - 


impudence of three or four metropolitan 
journals, who have reasons best known 
to themselves, which 1 hope will be 
exposed some day, to lie down upon 
their bellies in the dust before this man ? 
What has he done ? We are told that 
he carried the Russian war to a triumph¬ 
ant conclusion. 

Now, I will tell you what he did in that 
war. Lord Palmerston was a member 
of the Government which declared the 
war. If he be the man of talent, with 
the powers of administration which we 
are told he has, —if he be a man of this 
towering genius, that we are all suddenly 
called upon to discover at the age of 
seventy-three,—was he not likely, at 
least, three or four years ago, to have 
had a share of that energy, so that he 
might have imprinted a portion of his 
policy upon the Government during the 
time he was one of them ? He was 
responsible for every blunder, just as 
much as any member of the Government. 
And what is the Cabinet now? Why, 
a majority of the Cabinet now was the 
majority of the Cabinet then. Lord 
Palmerston was not called upon to make 
a new Cabinet in order to carry on the 
war; certain members of the Cabinet— 
a minority — seceded from it, and left 
the majority, of whom Lord Palmerston 
was at the head. That majority is quite 
as responsible for everything that occurred 
during the early progress of the war, as 
they can claim to be entitled to any merit 
for any improvement in the conduct of 
the war when that minority seceded. 
But did Lord Palmerston ever himself 
lend his word to this imposture that is 
practised in his name? No ; to do him 
justice, his toadies practise the impos¬ 
ture, but he has told us, manfully and in 
a straightforward way, that he did not 
share in the delusion himself. For what 
has he done? When Lord Aberdeen 
seceded from the Government, Lord 
Palmerston told Sir James Graham and 
the rest of the friends of Lord Aberdeen 
who remained in the Government, that 
he would carry on the Government and 
the war upon precisely the same princi¬ 
ples that they had been carried on by 


Lord Aberdeen ; that there should be 
no change in his foreign policy; and that 
he would only ask the same terms of 
peace as Lord Aberdeen would have 
been content with. That was not only 
mentioned privately in the course of 
their discussions with themselves, but it 
came out in the House of Commons. 
Did Lord Palmerston himself ever come 
before us to complain of anything that 
had been done in the early conduct of 
the war whilst he was a member of the 
Cabinet? No; on the contrary, he 
defended everything. 

When Mr. Roebuck brought forward 
his motion for inquiring into the scenes 
going on before Sebastopol, to try and 
hunt out, if he could, the cause of the 
ruin and disaster that had befallen our 
army, did Lord Palmerston get up in his 
place in the House, and say, ‘ Here are 
admitted evils, I grant to the honourable 
and learned Gentleman, fair subjects for 
inquiry?’ No; he stood by things as 
they were, — defended everything, and 
resisted an inquiry by the Committee. 
But, what is more, after the Commitee 
was appointed, and had sat and inquired 
into the proceedings at Sebastopol, when 
Mr. Roebuck brought forward a motion 
in the House of Commons, consequent 
on the inquiry, did Lord Palmerston 
assist him? No; he voted against him 
again. 

What has he done besides ? After 
sending out a couple of men,—able and 
competent men, Sir John M'Neill and 
Colonel Tulloch,—and after they had 
brought home a report, certainly as able 
and, I believe, as conscientious as was 
ever made by public men,—what did 
Lord Palmerston do ? Did he back up 
his own commissioners? No. He would 
have done, if it had been Smith, Jones, 
or Robinson that had been concerned; 
but they were Lords and Earls who were 
in question; and what did he do? He 
appointed a commission of military men 
to inquire into the conduct of the com¬ 
missioners ! And then, when public 
opinion rises to demand some improve¬ 
ment upon this state of things, what does 
he do ? He insults these distinguished 





34* 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH l8, 


men by sending them a present each of 
a thousand pounds, which they sent back 
again—just the amount that was paid 
some time ago to a policeman for having 
captured a celebrated political criminal. 

Now, this is the sort of man that we 
are called upon all at once to fall down 
and worship ! Why, I say the brazen 
image shall have no worship from me. 
But I want to ask these people that are 
here in Manchester, and I want you to 
put the question to them—I will first 
take Mr. Aspinall Turner. [Groans.] 
No, no, no; we will deal with him with 
reason, and not with clamour. I want 
to put something before you that you 
may probably have the opportunity of 
asking them. The great complaint 
against us on the part of these gentle¬ 
men is, that we are too independent of 
this Minister. Now, ask them this ques¬ 
tion : What would they have had us do 
in the case of that vote the other night, 
that was designed to do justice to Colonel 
Tulloch and Sir John M‘Neill? I was 
in the House of Commons, waiting for 
the division, and certainly should have 
voted against the Government; but Lord 
Palmerston, seeing which way the wind 
blew, after having spoken against the 
motion, got up and said, ‘I won’t divide 
the House upon it.’ Now, I want to 
know how Mr. Aspinall Turner would 
have voted on that occasion ? Would he 
have considered it very factious if he had 
joined the Member for Devonshire, who 
sits on the other side of the House, in 
voting against the Government ? Why, 
I see this Mr. Turner’s name, as Presi¬ 
dent of the Commercial Association, 
signed to a memorial, in which he states 
the whole of the facts I am stating, and 
says that Lord Palmerston has not only 
failed to do justice to these eminent of¬ 
ficers who went out to make the inquiry, 
but has also given encouragement and 
promotion to the very men who are 
proved to have been culpable and neg¬ 
lectful. Now, I must say I think Mr. 
Aspinall Turner is looking very much like 
a ‘conspirator’ in this matter,—he is 
guilty of a ‘ coalition ’ with somebody to 
turn out a Minister. Well, what are we 


to do under these circumstances ? Are 
we to follow this Minister, or to follow 
the dictates of our own judgments and 
consciences ? 

Now, I hear it said that we have been 
a thorn in the side of three Governments. 
We are told that three or four of us have 
been a thorn in the side of Lord Aber¬ 
deen, Lord John Russell, and now of 
Lord Palmerston. I can only say this, 
—if Manchester should send up the two 
gentlemen that are now candidates in 
opposition to my honourable and right 
honourable Friends, they wont be thorns 
in the side of any Government. 

Well, but what do you want done in 
Parliament? Do you send up men to 
Parliament just to be told off into one 
lobby or the other, according as the 
whipper-in of the Treasury decides? I 
suppose you want your Members to do 
something better than follow the bidding 
of the Treasury whip. Do you think 
there is much danger now of your catch¬ 
ing Members of Parliament likely to be 
too independent? I can assure you, 
you will find it just the contrary. And 
if the threats now held out should be 
carried into effect,—if you should, un¬ 
happily for yourselves, lose those two 
Members you have got, I will venture to 
say it will be long before you will have 
to complain that the new ones will be 
too independent when they get into Par¬ 
liament. Why, it is the veiy thing of 
all others most difficult to find in London 
—independence. Only cast your memo¬ 
ries back ; how few men have we got 
permanently to join us in our attempt, 
even, to stand against a Government ! 
Four or five, or six or eight, or ten. I 
could count them all on my ten fingers, 
who remained resolute and determined 
to maintain an independent course. And 
why ? Because the temptations, bland¬ 
ishments, and seductions practised on 
Members of Parliament are very well 
known to those engaged in that House. 
Do you think I was not tempted, like 
everybody else ? I have had my cards, 
my dinner cards, as large as that (exhi¬ 
biting a half-sheet of paper), and from 
J Lord Palmerston, too. 



RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


!8S7- 

When I went up to Parliament in 
1841, it would have been much easier 
and more pleasant to many minds, and 
■st much more agreeable life, if I had at 
once fallen into the track, and, instead 
of instituting an independent resistance 
to Government when I chose, I had 
pined the governing class, and become 
one of their humble servants. But the 
very first day I went into Parliament, in 
1841, when the lines of party were still 
visible, when there was a great gulf be¬ 
tween the two great parties on the two 
sides of the House—when Sir Robert 
Peel had his 390 or 400 men, and 
Lord John Russell his 270 or 280 men 
—the very first time I got up and spoke 
as the Member for Stockport, I declared 
I came there to do something—to re¬ 
peal the Corn-laws, and I would know 
neither Whig nor Tory until that work 
was done. 

Well, now, suppose I had pursued 
another course—suppose I had allied 
myself to the Whig party, which was 
then the most Liberal, and which had 
then adopted what was considered to be 
an advanced position at that time, an 
8r. fixed duty,—suppose I had joined 
that party, as I might have done, and 
depended upon them, and not upon an 
abstract principle, for the success of our 
agitation, do you think we should ever 
have got the total and immediate re¬ 
peal ? No ; it would not have been 
possible ; because we should have told 
Sir Robert Peel and the party opposite, 

‘ We are not going to take it from you 
at all; it is a party question—a Whig 
question, and we are going to take the 
repeal of the Corn-laws in no other way.’ 
But when Sir Robert Peel and the party 
opposite saw we were in earnest, and 
did not make a party question of our 
principle, he did the work for us, which 
the Whigs never could have done. Are 
we not to pursue the same course again ? 
Am I, because I find Mr. Disraeli and 
Sir John Pakington coming round to 
principles I have been advocating—am 
L, at the moment which offers a fair 
;hance of success to my opinion, to 
?ay, ‘No, T vil] not join you; that 


343 

would be conspiracy—that would be a 
coalition ? ’ 

Well, now, what is it, after all, that 
the so-much-abused Manchester Schoo. 
wants? Why, they say we want to 
abolish all our standing armies and 
navies, and leave you, like so many 
Quakers, at the mercy of the whole 
world. Any man who has lived in 
public life, as I have, must know that it 
is quite useless to contradict any false¬ 
hood or calumny, because it comes up 
again next day just as rife as ever. 
There is the Times newspaper always 
ready to repeat it, and the grosser the 
better. Have I not, in the House of 
Commons, advocated the expenditure ot 
10,000,000/. on our protection ? and 
that is pretty nearly as much as the 
Americans spend for civil and military 
purposes and everything put together. 
It may be a question whether it will 
be 10,000,000/. or 15,000,000/. The 
Duke of Wellington managed to make 
a sum under 12,000,000/. do. But they 
tell us that I want to deprive you of 
your defences against your enemies. 
Why, what has been my argument for 
the last seven years on this question? 
You cannot have a reduction of taxation 
unless you have a reduction of your 
military and naval establishments ; and 
you cannot have a reduction of your 
military and naval establishments if you 
allow a Minister to be constantly in¬ 
volving you in wars or in dangers of 
wars. 

Well, now, what do I hear every 
night in the House of Commons and in 
the House of Lords ? Lord Derby, 
Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Disraeli have 
used almost the identical language 
which I have used seven or eight years 
ago. Here is my programme, ‘ Non¬ 
intervention ; ’ here is my programme, 

‘ Diminished expenditure in your arma¬ 
ments, and diminished taxation if you 
follow that policy.’ But am I, when I 
see this policy, which seems to be advo¬ 
cated and very rapidly adopted by the 
whole Conservative party in the House 
of Commons, am I then immediately to 
turn from the course I took seven veai.s 




344 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH 18 , 


ago and say, ‘ If you offer to reduce the 
establishments 2,000,000/. a year, you 
only want to make a factious opposition 
to the Government ? ’ I want such 
factious opposition. 

Now, I want you to bear in mind, 
though you have got Free Trade, you 
are interested in getting something else, 
and you will find something else. I 
speak to young men, to young men in 
shops and warehouses, foremen in places 
of business, who want some day to have 
the chance of being masters. I want the 
operative who is qualifying himself to be 
a freeman, and who hopes some day to 
be a capitalist, to have the chance that 
he may carry out his views and see the 
career before him. This was the feeling 
I had seven or eight years ago, when we 
launched our assault upon the protective 
system. But there is a great deal more 
to do, if you will make this country a 
place to live in, and for your children to 
thrive in, and give a chance to every 
man, as I should like to see, of rising in 
the world, becoming the head of a 
family, and finding employment for his 
labour, and supply him with all the ad¬ 
vantages of capital if he sets up to be a 
master. How is this to be done, but by 
widening the circle of business opera¬ 
tions, and by diminishing the pressure 
of your taxation ? 

Now, what do we see in London? 
Twenty or thirty thousand unemployed 
workmen. Why are they unemployed ? 
You don’t find that the newspapers con¬ 
nect cause and effect. They are unem¬ 
ployed because capital is scarce ; they 
are unemployed because money is worth 
6 or 7 per cent, at the banks. Who will 
lay out his money in building houses, to 
pay him at the rate of 6, or 7, or 8 per 
cent., if he can get that percentage for 
the money he puts into the banks ? Con¬ 
sequently there is no money being in¬ 
vested in buildings, because you have 
now such a high rate of interest. And 
why is there such a high rate of interest ? 
Because the floating capital of this 
country has, during the last two or three 
years, been wasted in sudden and ex¬ 
traordinary expenses. But you don’t 


see your newspapers, that were bawling 
for the war, honestly tell the people in 
London that the reason they are suffer¬ 
ing want of employment is, that this 
floating capital, which is always a limited 
quantity in the country—the floating 
capital which sets all your fixed capital 
in motion—has been exhausted, wasted, 
by the course that has been pursued. 
It may have been necessary or not, I am 
not now going into that question ; but, 
I say, let cause and effect be connected, 
don’t let the people be deluded. 

They tell these poor people in London 
they may emigrate; but I say it is 
downright quackery to talk of relieving 
the country of 20,000 or 30,000 people 
by means of emigration. Moreover, if 
we remain at peace, and keep our Min¬ 
istry in order, during the next two or 
three years, there will not be enough 
builders and joiners for the work that 
will have to be done. It is downright 
quackery, and insulting your under¬ 
standing, to say you must make people 
emigrate, as a means of relieving you of 
such a large surplus population. It is 
all moonshine. 

Now, I say, if you are to have a pro¬ 
gressive development of your trade, you 
must pursue a policy favourable to it. 
You must enable your Government to 
reduce taxation, and especially that 
taxation which presses on the labouring 
and on the middle classes—I mean the 
taxation that is laid in an indirect form 
upon your articles of consumption. The 
more you remove these taxes, the more 
your trade will expand, the more your 
population may increase and flourish, 
and the happier will be the condition of 
the country. 

But you have come now to a dead 
stand-still ; and this is one of my great 
complaints against this Government. It 
is the most incompetent Government in 
matters of finance that we have had 
since that of Sir Robert Peel. Here 
you are, laying on increased taxes on 
your tea and sugar—here you are, at this 
moment, to gratify the people who have 
cried out against a 16Y income-tax, 
taking off 9 d. from the tax. And it is 




RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


i8S7- 

perfectly certain, as Mr. Gladstone says, 
that the Government have not the 
means before them to do it honestly ; 
and next year, unless you have a reduc¬ 
tion of expenditure, there must be an 
increase of taxation. I appeal to my 
right hon. Friend here (Mr. Gibson), 
who has looked into the matter as well 
as myself, whether it is not inevitable. 
And, in two years from that time, if you 
do not reduce your expenditure, you 
will have a deficit of something like 
10,000, ooo/. But howto make it up? 
Your present Prime Minister, who lives 
from hand to mouth in his political 
career—who has never cared for the 
morrow so that he can keep on for to¬ 
day—he is pursuing a most ruinous 
course of finance; and, if you had 
called out for the whole \ 6 d. being taken 
off, instead of the gd. he would still 
have let it go, and left it to somebody 
else to find out how to make up the 
deficiency next year. 

And not only that, but look at your 
Indian finances—Nobody looks at them; 
you have put his screen before your faces, 
so that you are hidden from India, and 
India is hidden from you. And so your 
Government sits down in London, and 
writes out to that country, in order to 
send one army to the Persian Gulf, and 
another to Hongkong; and that the 
Indian Treasury must pay for it, or the 
half of it. They have no voice in the 
matter out there. And how stand your 
Indian finances? Deficit on deficit every 
year—deficit last year, and the year 
before that—a constantly accumulating 
deficit. And what has been done to 
meet it? They tried for a loan some 
time ago, at per cent., but could not 
get the money. Then they have tried 
to ’realise it in India, at 5 per cent.; 
but could not get the money. And the 
last advices are, that you cannot get the 
money. But, as Sir Robert Peel told 
us in the House of Commons, on some 
occasion, you are as much responsible 
for the finances of India as you are for 
the finances in Downing Street; and, if 
you allow things to go on in this reckless 
way, by which you become embarrassed 


34 S 

at home and embarrassed abroad, the 
time of reckoning will overtake you, as 
it does overtake all spendthrifts, and 
there will be an evil day for you and 
your children, sooner or later. 

Now, is it to be considered unreason¬ 
able that we have joined Mr. Gladstone 
in his motions? I voted for his motion 
that there should be a reduction of the 
expenditure, and Mr. Disraeli also voted 
with him. Were we, then, to go into 
the other lobby, because we found Mr. 
Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli voting with 
us on that occasion? I believe they were 
right. I believe that they both took a 
most philosophical and able view of our 
finances; and what I want you to consider 
is, whether you think the men who take 
the independent course which I have 
suggested, whether you think they are 
men who ought to be denounced here, 
by interested and jealous individuals, 
because they have had the manliness to 
do their duty? 

I come now, for a moment, to the 
conduct of my right hon. Friend here, 
and to the conduct of my honourable 
Friend whom I represent here on this 
occasion. I have lived with Mr. Bright 
in the most transparent intimacy of mind 
that two human beings ever enjoyed 
together. I don’t believe there is a 
view, I don’t believe there is a thought, 
I don’t believe there is one aspiration in 
the minds of either of us that the other 
is not acquainted with. I don’t know 
that there is anything that I have sought 
to do which Mr. Bright would not do in 
my place, or anything that he aims at 
which I would not accomplish if I had 
the power. Knowing him, then, I stand 
here, in all humility, as his representa¬ 
tive ; for what I have long cherished in 
my friend Mr. Bright is this, that I have 
seen in him an ability and an eloquence 
to which I have had no pretensions, 
because I am not gifted with the natural 
eloquence with which he is endowed ; 
and that I have had the fond consolation 
of hoping that Mr. Bright, being seven or 
eight years younger than myself, will be 
advocating principles—and advocating 
them successfully—when I shall no longer 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH 1 8 , 


34 6 

be on the scene of duty. With those feel¬ 
ings, I naturally take the deepest interest 
in the decision of this election. I feel 
humiliated—I feel disgusted to see the 
daily personal attacks—the diatribes that 
are made against this man—with his 
health impaired for the moment,—his 
health impaired, too, in that organ which 
excites feelings of awe and of the utmost 
commiseration for him on the part of all 
right-minded men. Yes; whilst this 
man is not able to use those great intel¬ 
lectual powers with which God has gifted 
him—whilst their full activity is sus¬ 
pended for the day—the vermin of your 
Manchester press, the ghouls of the 
Guardian , are preying upon this splen¬ 
did being, and trying to make a martyr 
of him in the midst of his sufferings ! 

Well, now, what are the motives with 
which these men are actuated? Are they 
public motives? Why don’t they allege 
one public ground for their hostility? 
Where is the public ground—where is 
the one fact—what have they to allege 
against this man? No; it is vile, dirty, 
nasty, fireside jealousy. 

I will deal very candidly with you, 
men of Manchester, in this respect. I 
say you have not the character, or the 
fame, or the destinies of John Bright in 
your hands ; but I will tell you this, that 
your own character and reputation are 
at stake. Your character and reputation 
with the country, and with the world at 
large, are at stake in the conduct which 
you pursue on this occasion. One who 
has served you so faithfully and so assi¬ 
duously—even to the partial destruction 
of his own health—who is no longer 
able to appear before you,—why, the 
manhood that is in you must all rebel 
against the cowardly assaults that are 
made upon him. But I believe the 
hostility is a personal one. I believe it 
is confined to a select few. They may, 
perhaps, make dupes of others ; and, 
unless you be watchful, they may make 
dupes of some of you. 

But what are the alleged faults of this 
man—what have you to say against him? 
I told you before that you must go to 
the House of Commons for his character 


—to either side of the House of Com¬ 
mons—and I will venture to say you will 
hear but one opinion of him from Whig, 
Tory, or Radical. I will tell you what 
I heard one of the oldest and most saga¬ 
cious men in the House of Commons 
say : that he did not believe there was 
any man in the House, with the excep¬ 
tion of Mr. Bright and Mr. Gladstone, 
who ever changed votes by their elo¬ 
quence. Now, that is a great tribute to 
pay to men; because although we, many 
of us, may probably convince people by 
our arguments, we do not convert them 
and make them change their votes,—it 
requires logic and reasoning power ; but 
it requires something else—it requires 
those transcendent powers of eloquence 
which your representatives possess! 

Now, as to my friend here, who sits 
beside me (Mr. Gibson), he was not of 
my selection; he was selected in the 
parlour of my late revered friend, Sir 
Thomas Potter, and I was at the time 
not a very enthusiastic supporter of the 
right hon. Gentleman. He was brought 
here, and, as I always went with those 
good men who at that time took the 
lead—Sir Thomas Potter, Mr. Kershaw, 
Mr. Callender, and others — I joined 
them, and fought the battle, and we won 
it for them. But this I will say of him, 
that though he sometimes has an arch 
look, and sometimes seems as if he 
were almost quizzing you, and you fancy 
that there is a little twist of sarcasm 
about him in all he says and all he looks, 
yet this I will say of him, that there is 
an earnestness in his character which I 
every day more and more appreciate, and 
which I did not when I first saw him— 
as many others may not, when they first 
see him—give him credit for. 

Well, now, how has my right hon. 
Friend employed himself? He might 
have gone into office, and was in office. 
He is a man bred in fashionable life—he 
has not the same excuse that I have for 
keeping out of that sort of company. If 
he had allowed himself to be absorbed 
in the aristocratic circies of London— 
nobody can doubt, who sees him, that 
he would have been *n ornament to those 




RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


347 


1857- 

circles. He might have led a very 
happy life there; and, being Member 
for Manchester, they would have been, 
I dare say, very proud of him. And then 
there would have been none of this 
opposition now set up against him. But 
he has taken an independent course. He 
has worked in favour of great questions 
—great questions affecting the interests 
of the people. There is one question 
which he carried—I will almost give 
him credit for carrying it single -handed 
—and that is the question of the news¬ 
paper stamp. He carried that, and the 
repeal of the advertisement duty; he 
carried them by his dexterity and ability 
in debate; by his exquisite tactics, by 
his knowledge of the forms of the House, 
and by accepting the assistance of hon. 
Gentlemen on the other side of the 
House. Now he has incurred the hos¬ 
tility—[cries of ‘ The Guardian ’]—ay, 
and not only of the Guardian ; we have 
had black marks put opposite our 
names from more papers than the 
Guardian. 

I remember the first time I spoke in 
public after returning home from a tem- 
poraryabsence on the Continent, in 1847. 
It was at a dinner party in London, at 
which I took the chair ; and I took the 
opportunity of launching this question of 
the press, and saying that the newspaper 
press of England was not free, and that 
this was a thing which the Reformers of 
the country ought to set about—to eman¬ 
cipate it. Well, I got a most vicious 
article next day from the Times news¬ 
paper for that, and the Times has fol¬ 
lowed us both with a very ample store 
of venom ever since. But now, these 
are the very men, men like my right 
hon. Friend, who undertook these great 
questions, and braved the hostility of 
interested parties, that the rank and file 
of their constituents ought to support, 
and protect from the vengeance threat¬ 
ened against them. 

I am told there is a complaint made 
of these gentlemen by my friend Mr. 
Alderman Neild, of whom I always 
wish to speak with respect, as an old 
friend of mine, and who thinks they do 


not pay sufficient attention to private 
bills in London. My opinion is that 
there is a good deal too much made ot 
that. The fact is, the less you have to 
go to London for private bills the better. 
You want the bill carried in Parliament, 
the thing is done by the House of Com¬ 
mons ; and, let me tell you, when you 
want a man who has influence in that 
House, to assist you in obtaining a bill, 
you must go to just such a man as my 
right hon. Friend, or Mr. Bright—men 
who have force in the House, who have 
the ability to make themselves felt when 
they speak in that blouse. I tell you 
that those men who are independent in 
that House, who have the power of 
speaking so as to command the attention 
of the House, will do more for you by 
what they say in half-a-dozen words, 
than an hour’s talk will do for you from 
one of those toadies who are always 
known to be at the beck and call of the 
Government. 

But I am told that this Manchester 
School, as it is called, do not pay suffi¬ 
cient attention to the interests of Man¬ 
chester. Now, I think we have done as 
much for Manchester as anybody. Have 
you not got your daily newspapers now? 
But for my right hon. Friend you might 
have had to be content with news three 
days old. Have you not got an addition 
to your register of 4,000 names now? 
Who was it that got those 4,000 names 
added to your register by having the 
clause inserted in favour of the com¬ 
pound householders ? It was Mr. 
Bright. No man of less energy or 
influence than he could have done it, 
because it is a thing repugnant to the 
governing class in the House of Com¬ 
mons to have any addition to the register 
at all. I ask those 4,000 men how they 
are going to vote ? I don’t say to those 
men, ‘ You are not to exercise your vote, 
or your power, independent of Mr. 
Bright or anybody else; ’ but this I say, 

‘ Shame upon you if, having got the 
franchise for yourselves by a man who 
advocates the extension of the franchise 
to others, you give the power vested in 
you to the hands of somebody else, who 



348 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


MARCH 18, 


will refuse the franchise to those who 
have not got it.’ 

Well, but now, this Manchester 
School, and their getting the Corn-laws 
repealed, and Free Trade established, 
by which the trade of this country has 
pretty nearly doubled during the last 
twelve years—I say, who has benefited 
so much as Manchester by that ? But if 
you come to your own local affairs—I 
tell these gentlemen who are setting 
themselves up, and swelling about as 
aldermen, and say we are people who 
have not attended to the interests of 
Manchester—I tell them they owe every¬ 
thing to us, even their dignity. If I 
were to take the watch out of the pocket 
of my friend in the chair there, and read 
the inscription upon it, it would show 
that it was given to him by a number of 
us, who associated together to get a 
charter of incorporation for Manchester. 

And our friend here (Mr. G. Wilson), 
who, from the time he was a boy of 
eighteen years of age, and was work¬ 
ing day and night as a secretary on 
Poulett Thompson’s committee —who 
has worked on all the questions carried 
through the town of Manchester ever 
since, and gone through all the drudgery 
for it in getting the charter of incorpor¬ 
ation ; and during the constant labour 
of seven years, for the repeal of the 
Corn-laws ; and who is working now— 
and, it seems, working too much, for 
these gentlemen ;—this is the man, they 
say, who does nothing for Manchester— 
who does not look after the local affairs 
of Manchester. 

Let me speak of my friend Mr. Aider- 
man Neild—I shall not do so in any 
spirit of egotism now, because I may, 
without vanity, say that it does not at 
all add to my fame with regard to this 
transaction in Manchester; but it so 
happened that, on one unlucky day for 
the lord of the manor of this place, his 
steward summoned me, along with ten 
or twelve other gentlemen, to elect a 
boroughreeve and constables for Man 
Chester. I was taken into some dingy, 
cobwebbed, murky hole, and sat down 
with those gentlemen to elect a borough¬ 


reeve and constables for Manchester. 
After we had finished our business we 
were entitled, I think, to a leaden ticket, 
for some soup or a dinner. I said im¬ 
mediately, ‘ Well, what in the world 
does all this mean? Can it be that 
Manchester ’—for I was not an old in¬ 
habitant of the town—‘is it that in this 
great town of Manchester we are still 
living under the feudal system ? Does 
Sir Oswald Moseley, living up in 
Derbyshire, send his mandate down 
here, for us to come into this dingy hole 
to elect a government for Manchester, 
and then go and get a ticket for soup at 
his expense? Why, now,’ I said, ‘I 
will put an end to this thing.’ And it 
so happened that just at that moment 
my friend, Mr. Neild, was trying to get 
some amendment to the Act of Parlia¬ 
ment by which the affairs of the police 
were carried on in this borough. But 
my friend Mr. Neild went to work in 
that, as he went to work in everything— 
it was by a little bit of compromise and 
concession. He went to the party who 
were already in possession of the power 
of the town, and asked them to co¬ 
operate; and they got some unworthy 
people to come to their meeting and 
upset the benches, and make a great 
confusion, and the whole meeting was 
destroyed ; and, in fact, Mr. Neild was 
very much discomfited. Well, I wrote 
to Mr. Neild, and, if he does me the 
honour to preserve anything that I write 
to him, he has the note now. I said, 

‘ If you will do this thing in the way 
that I intend to do it, and you will join 
with me, I will undertake to say that we 
will get a charter of incorporation for 
Manchester.’ Mr. Neild—who had 
tried, what is a common thing with 
these gentlemen, something that will 
please everybody, but pleases nobody— 
came to me, like an honest, excellent, 
true-hearted man, as he is, and he says, 

‘ I have tried my way, and it does not 
answer; I will go with you; all I stipu¬ 
late is, that you will not take any course 
but what is consistent with morality and 
honour, and I will join you in any way 
you choose in order to put an end to this 



RUSSIAN WAR. III. 


349 


1857- 

state of things.’ We were three years I 
at that work ; and at one time he was ' 
1,200/. out of pocket, and I was between , 
700/. and 800/. deficient, but we got the j 
charter. 

I ask these new-fledged aldermen— 
not the worthy and true-hearted men 
we see on this platform—I ask these 
men who are running about and saying 
that we will attend to nothing but the 
great national questions—I ask them, 
Are there in Manchester any men who 
have left their impress upon the town of 
Manchester more than the four men who 
are stigmatised by these people as never 
paying any attention to local matters ? 

I am going to Huddersfield to-morrow. 
If my voice does not fail me, I should 
like to come back and have one more 
great meeting in this hall—but it must 
be on one condition, and that is, that 
the gentlemen here set to work. Our 
late friend. Sir Thomas Potter, if he had 
been living, would have been amongst 
us ; and he never allowed a meeting to 
go off without his famous and memora¬ 
ble words, ‘ Work, work, work.’ With 
these words, I wish to dismiss you. 

I tell you, here is a combination, I 
call it a conspiracy—a foul conspiracy, 
to upset two of the ablest men in the 
House of Commons. One of them is 
absent, and therefore it is no flattery to 
say it of him, that, if the House of 
Commons had the power of returning 
three men to be Members of their body, 

I have not the least hesitation in saying 
that one of these men, if he was not 
in Parliament, would be John Bright. 
Now, he is well known to you, and my 
friend Mr. Gibson is known to you as a 
great worker in the good cause. 

You are asked to dismiss these men 
without a cause. I tell you that it is 
you, and not they, who are upon your 
trials. You may dismiss them, but if 
you do you will never have them back 
again, for they will not be out of Parlia¬ 
ment a month. And what will you have 
in the place of them? I will avoid 
personalities. I have only dealt with 


Lord Palmerston as a person because he 
has been put forward as a policy. He 
is the only policy put forward on which 
the elections are to turn. I am obliged 
to deal with the man as a policy. 

But now, as to your two candidates. 
There is Mr. Lowe. See him, and hear 
him, before you choose him. You have 
had one specimen of ministerial oratory 
on this platform, and I want you to hear 
more of these * right honourable ’ and 
‘ honourable ’ members of the aris¬ 
tocracy. Let them come and talk to 
you, and you will then know better how 
to appreciate the men you have got. 
Hear Mr. Lowe. I have heard him, 
and I will say this—and in saying it I 
shall be borne out by any impartial man 
in the House of Commons—that, con¬ 
sidering that he had some reputation for 
ability when he was at Oxford, and as a 
writer in the Times, he is the most 
conspicuous failure in the House of 
Commons. Then there is my friend 
Sir John Potter. I will say nothing 
upon this subject except this : I am 
sorry to see him in opposition to his old 
friends. 

But this I say of the two candidates 
who are rivals for the representation of 
your city, that if you want to exchange 
your present talented Members—if you 
want to lose the proud distinction you 
have attained—send them ; but if you 
want still to show yourself to the world 
as having two Members able to grapple 
with other men in that great arena of 
intellectual gladiatorship, the House of 
Commons,—if you want still to show to 
the world, as you have done already, 
that Manchester, at all events, is some¬ 
thing, then keep your present Members. 
But, on the other hand, if you think you 
have had fame and distinction enough, 
and want to fall into utter insignificance, 
and to hear a shout of scorn and indig¬ 
nation at the result of your election, 
then return the two men you are asked 
to send in the place of your present 
representatives. 




AMERICAN WAR. 

I. 

HOUSE OF COMMONS, APRIL 24, 1863. 


[The Alexandra was a three-masted wooden vessel, which was seized by the Commis¬ 
sioners of Customs at Liverpool, on the ground that it was being equipped contrary 
to the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act. The case which arose out of the 
seizure formed the subject of a trial in the Exchequer before Chief Baron Pollock, on 
June 22, and ended in a verdict for the defendants.] 


The legal points that have been dis¬ 
cussed in connection with this question 
are, undoubtedly, of the greatest import¬ 
ance ; but I apprehend that no one will 
expect that any conclusive result will 
arise from this passage of arms between 
Gentlemen learned in the law in this 
House upon a question which is, I believe, 
now pending before the Law Courts. 
When the hon. Member for Liverpool 
(Mr. Horsfall) gave notice of his motion, 
I had no idea he could have contemplated 
any such result, or that he could have 
wished this question to be confined to the 
mere technical aspect which has been 
sought to be given to it. I think a larger 
and more important question is before us. 
It is not merely the vessel (the Alexandra) 
now under consideration, that public 
report charges with being intended to 
commit a breach of the Statute Law. It 
is said there are many vessels now build¬ 
ing with the same object in view, and I 
apprehend that this is a proper time in 
the interests of this country—in the inter¬ 
ests of this country, and no other country 
—to offer a fewremarks upon this subject. 
I expressly speak of the interests of this 
country, because we are constantly met 
by phrases such as, ‘You are consulting 
American interests; ’—‘You are neglect¬ 
ing the honour of this country. ’ I wish 


to consider British interests in my observ¬ 
ations on the Foreign Enlistment Act, 
and I will consider no other interest; 
and I maintain, at the outset, there is 
no other country in the world that has a 
quarter—I say deliberately a quarter— 
of the interest in upholding the system of 
international law, of which the Foreign 
Enlistment Act is the basis. 

Now, the hon. Member for Liverpool 
(Mr. Horsfall) has to-night—as was done 
by the hon. and learned Solicitor-General 
(Sir W. Atherton) on a former occasion 
—mixed up another question which has 
tended to bewilder and confuse the public 
mind here and out of doors, and the world 
over, as to two questions which are totally 
distinct. The hon. Member opposite 
has referred—and the greater part of his 
speech was made up of that subject—to 
the practice of buying and selling and 
exporting arms and munitions of war. I 
am sorry that topic was touched upon, 
both now and on a former occasion, 
when I was not present, though I have 
read the proceedings. There is no law 
in this country that prohibits the buying 
and selling or manufacturing or exporting 
arms and munitions of war. It has been 
truly said by the hon. and learned Mem¬ 
ber for Plymouth (Mr. Collier), and by 
the hon. and learned Gentleman the 




APRIL 24 , 1863 . 


AMERICAN WAR. I. 


Solicitor-General (Sir W. Atherton), 
that there is no country that has furnished 
such high authorities upon that subject 
as America itself. From the time of 
Jefferson, who, in that admirable passage 
read by the hon. Member for Plymouth, 
exhausted the whole argument in a few 
lines, down to the present time, every 
great authority in that country has clearly 
and distinctly laid down, that a Govern¬ 
ment is not responsible for the dealings 
of its subjects in the munitions of war. 
They carry on such a traffic at their own 
risk, and, if they attempt to run a block¬ 
ade, the Government is not responsible, 
and their act never ought to be made the 
subject of diplomatic communication or 
complaint. I am astonished that Mr. 
Adams and Mr. Seward should have 
mixed that question up in their corre¬ 
spondence with that of equipments for war. 
I will not say I was astonished at Mr. 
Seward, because he writes so much, that 
he is in danger of writing on eveiy sub¬ 
ject, and on every side of a subject; but 
I am astonished that Mr. Adams should 
have mixed this question up with what is 
really a vital question—that of furnishing 
and equipping ships of war. There is only 
one reason why I am not sorry Mr. 
Adams has touched upon that subject. 
He has alluded to large and systematic 
operations being carried on in this coun¬ 
try for sending munitions of war to 
blockaded ports. That involves the risk 
of being seized by the cruisers of the 
Federal States; and, as the only mode of 
punishing those who violate the blockade 
is in the hands of those who are main¬ 
taining the blockade (and we know the 
blockade is violated systematically—we 
know there are joint-stock companies to 
do it)—as the only authority that can 
punish the guilty parties, by the confis¬ 
cation of their property, is the Federal 
Government, through the Prize Courts ; 
and as the only police that can seize them 
are the Federal cruisers, it is well the 
country should know what is going on ; 
because, if in the crowd of steamers sent 
out now, for the first time, to carry on 
our commerce with the West Indies— 
though a few years ago we were obliged 


35? 

to pay 250,000/. a year for a line of 
steamers to carry our letters there—if, I 
say, in that crowd of steamers, one or 
two innocent vessels should be detained 
by the blockading squadron, I think Mr. 
Adams has so far done good in showing 
that their Government is entitled to some 
forbearance from us if those one or two 
innocent vessels should suffer with the 
guilty. I am not going into the question 
of the blockade now. I promise that I 
will deal with that question separately 
another time, and I shall be just as ready 
to meet your arguments on English 
grounds then as I am on the question 
now before us. 

Now, coming to the real and only 
question before us—the infringement of 
our own Foreign Enlistment Act—what 
are the grounds upon which I desire to 
see the Government exercise the greatest 
vigilance in preventing the violation of 
that law? I say, first, it is because we, 
of all other countries, have the most at 
stake in seeing that law observed. How 
do I hope ever to see the Government 
supported—how do I hope to see public 
opinion sanction the vigilant observance 
of that law, but by making it clear to 
this House and to the country, that the 
Americans have a claim upon us for the 
due observance of that law, inasmuch 
as they have themselves at all times ex¬ 
ercised a fair reciprocity towards us 
when we have had occasion to appeal 
to them, when we have been in their 
present position ? I am glad to hear 
hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite say, 
‘No, no.’ I like to hear an opponent 
say ‘ No,’ if he will listen to. me. And 
when he has listened, I challenge him, 
in all the records of our State papers, to 
show an instance, in our diplomatic cor¬ 
respondence, of a despatch having been 
Written complaining of any unredressed 
grievance under the Foreign Enlistment 
Act of the United States. Now, what 
has been the conduct of the American 
Government with reference to this system 
of legislation ? My hon. and learned 
Friend the Member for Plymouth stated 
truly, that all the legislation that has 
taken place in America upon the question 




352 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


APRIL 24, 


of foreign enlistment has been at the 
instance, and in behalf, I may say, of 
European Governments; and I will add, 
that in a majority of cases, it has been 
at the instance and for the benefit of 
England. I will take the first Act, 
passed in 1794. I am not going to dwell 
on historical subjects, or to repeat the 
familiar history of Mr. Genet, and his 
proceedings in 1793 ; but the passing of 
that Act so remarkably illustrates the 
good faith of the American people, that 
it cannot be passed over without notice. 
The United S tates had then been ten years 
an independent nation, owing its inde¬ 
pendence mainly to the assistance given 
by France. In the course of these ten 
years France had gone through a revo¬ 
lution ; it had become a sister Republic; 
and it sent out an envoy to America, 
claiming assistance, and for the right of 
fitting out cruisers in American ports. 
It was against England, the old enemy 
of both, that it sought this advantage. 
What was the conduct of America under 
these circumstances, the most trying that 
could De imagined ? Why, we know 
that it required all the moral power of 
Washington to enforce this law. Not 
the law of America, for in 1793 the 
United States had no enlistment law ; 
but they put themselves under the com¬ 
mon law of England, or what may be 
called international law, and they gave 
us all the protection which they now ask 
us to give them. In 1794, they passed 
a Foreign Enlistment Act, and at whose 
instance? I will not weary you with 
long extracts, or historical references of 
my own; I will give you what was said 
by an English statesman, whose views 
will probably be heard with some re¬ 
spect on the other side. Mr. Canning, 
speaking of the passing of our Foreign 
Enlistment Bill, in 1819, said :— 

' In 1794, this country complained of 
various breaches of neutrality committed 
on the part of citizens of the United States 
of America. What was the conduct of that 
nation in consequence ? Did it resent the 
complaint as an infringement of its inde¬ 
pendence ? Did it refuse to take such steps 
as would insure the immediate observance 


of neutrality? Neither. In 1794, imme¬ 
diately after the application from the 
British Government, the Legislature of 
the United States passed an Act, prohibit¬ 
ing, under heavy penalties, the engage¬ 
ment of American citizens in the armies of 
any belligerent Power.' 

That was not merely an Act to prevent 
enlistment, it was a Foreign Enlistment 
Act, embracing our own provisions with 
reference to ships of war. That was the 
opinion of Mr. Canning. 

I come now to the next case, in which 
the Americans carried out and enforced, 
in its entirety, the principle of neu¬ 
trality, under the provisions of the Fo¬ 
reign Enlistment Act in the year 1818. 
At that time, the Spanish American 
Republics were in revolt against the 
mother country. We generally sympa¬ 
thise with everybody’s rebels but our 
own. Mr. Canning and Lord Castlereagh 
brought into this House, in 1819, a 
Foreign Enlistment Bill, which was in¬ 
tended to make provision for the more 
faithful observance of our neutrality 
towards the Spanish colonies. This 
Bill met with great resistance from the 
Whig party ; and, among others, it was 
opposed by Sir James Macintosh. I 
will read an extract from the speech of 
Lord Castlereagh, whom hon. Gentle¬ 
men opposite—even those below the 
gangway—will probably deem an author¬ 
ity. Lord Castlereagh, speaking on that 
Bill on the 13th of May, and using the 
mode of argument that would tell effect¬ 
ually with his Whig opponents, said :— 

‘ It was a little too much in the hon. and 
learned Gentleman (Sir James Macintosh) 
to censure the Government of this country, 
as being hostile to the South Americans 
and partial to Spain, while we had delayed 
doing what another Government, which 
he would allow to be free and popular, had 
done long ago. He would ask him, had 
the United States done nothing to prevent 
their citizens from assisting the South 
Americans? They had enacted two laws 
on the subject, nearly of the same tendency 
as that now proposed. 

Now, I beg to remind the House, that 
not only is it true, as my hon. and learned 






AMERICAN WAR. I. 


3 S3 


1863 

Friend the Member for Plymouth says, 
that the American Government has 
passed its Foreign Enlistment Acts at 
the instance of European countries, but 
there is this remarkable fact also to be 
borne in mind, as proving the good faith 
of that Government and people, that 
they have passed those Acts in direct 
opposition to the sympathies and even 
to the supposed interests, of the country. 
In every one of the three cases to which 
I have to refer, they went against the 
national sympathies, and it required all 
the influence of the leading and author¬ 
itative politicians of the United States 
to carry the law against the popular 
feelings of the country. But now I come 
to the strongest case of all. I am going 
to bring as a witness a person who is 
present—the noble Lord (Palmerston) 
at the head of the Government. In 1837, 
as most of us are old enough to remem¬ 
ber, a rebellion broke out in Canada, 
and when this House met in January, 
1838, we were in a state of great appre¬ 
hension with reference to the state of 
affairs on the North American Conti¬ 
nent. Our apprehensions arose, not so 
much with respect to the rebellion in 
our own colonies, as on account of 
what was passing on the frontier of the 
United States. Great excitement pre¬ 
vailed among the border population, 
which sympathised strongly with the 
rebels ; and the danger we felt was, that 
that state of things might lead to a 
collision with the United States. Soon 
after the meeting of the House, Sir 
Robert Inglis, interpreting the general 
anxiety of the country, rose and asked 
the noble Lord, who is now at the head 
of the Government, but who was then 
Foreign Minister, if he had any objection 
to state what were at that moment the 
relations between Mr. Fox, our repre¬ 
sentative at Washington, and the Go¬ 
vernment of the United States. Lord 
Palmerston replied, that fortunately he 
was able to give exact information, as 
he had received a despatch from Mr. 
Fox the day before ; from which I infer, 
that the noble Lord and Sir Robert 
Inglis had agreed beforehand that this 


important question was to be put. The 
noble Lord went on to describe the state 
of excitement and dangerous agitation 
prevailing on the frontiers of Canada; 
how the rebels had taken possession of 
a place called Navy Island ; how they 
had flocked there, and been joined by 
citizens of the United States, and how 
arms had been furnished to them ; and 
how there existed, in fact, a most dan¬ 
gerous state of excitement. The noble 
Lord further said, that the Governor of 
Canada, Sir Francis Head, had sent a 
despatch to Mr. Fox, at Washington, 
complaining of this most unfortunate 
and menacing state of affairs ; and now 
I will read the continuance of the noble 
Lord’s speech with reference to the con¬ 
duct of the American Government on 
that occasion :— 

‘Mr. Fox immediately communicated 
these facts to the President of the United 
States, and received in reply a most friendly 
communication. In the first instance, he 
had a verbal communication from Mr. 
Forsyth, the United States' Foreign Secre¬ 
tary, containing an expression of sentiments 
such as might be expected from the friendly 
spirit of the United States' Government, 
and the high sense of honour by which 
that country has been actuated in its deal¬ 
ings with foreign countries. On the 5th 
ult. Mr. Fox received a note from Mr. 
Forsyth, in which was a passage to this 
effect:—“That all the constitutional 
Powers vested in the Executive would be 
exercised to maintain the supremacy of 
those laws which had been passed to fulfil 
the obligations of the United States to¬ 
wards all nations which should unfortun¬ 
ately be engaged in foreign or domestic 
warfare." In addition to this assurance, 
that all the powers now vested in the cen¬ 
tral Government should be used to preserve 
neutrality, the President, on the 5th. sent 
down a special Message to Congress, stat¬ 
ing, that though the laws as they stood 
were quite sufficient to punish an infraction 
of the neutrality, they were not sufficient 
to prevent it, and asking Congress to give 
the Executive further power fur that pur¬ 
pose. Upon the receipt of this communi¬ 
cation, a short discussion, in which many 
of the leading men, including Mr. Clay, 
Mr. Calhoun, and others of high character, 
participated, took place in Congress, and, 
23 







354 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


APRIL 24, 


without exception, all who spoke expressed 
sentiments of a most friendly disposition 
towards this country; stating a strong 
opinion that the laws should be enforced, 
and that if, as they stood, they were insuf¬ 
ficient, stronger powers should be given to 
the Executive.' 

Now, let us pause to do justice to those 
great men, Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and 
others, who brought their great influence 
to bear at a time of immense excitement 
and dangerous animosity, and who threw 
their temporary popularity to the wind, 
in order that they might—as every man 
of public influence ought to do—make 
themselves the depository of the influence 
which they possessed for their country’s 
advantage. I am going to put an hypo¬ 
thetical case. Let us suppose, that 
instead of the friendly answer which 
the American Government returned, the 
President had replied to Mr. Fox in 
these terms : ‘ I hope the people and 
Government of the United States will 
believe that we are doing our best in 
every case to execute the law, but they 
must not imagine that any cry which 
may be raised will induce us to come 
down to Congress with a proposal to 
alter the law. If this cry is raised for 
the purpose of driving the President’s 
Government to do something which may 
be contrary to the dignity of the country, 
in the way of altering our laws, for the 
purpose of pleasing another Government, 
then all I can say is, that such a course 
is not likely to accomplish its purpose.’ 
Now, with the simple alteration of the 
words ‘United Kingdom’ for ‘theUnited 
States,’ ‘this House’ for ‘Congress,’and 
‘ Her Majesty’s Government ’ for ‘ the 
President’s Government, ’ we have exactly 
the language which was used by the 
noble Lord three weeks ago. 

I wish now to draw your attention to 
what was done in consequence of that 
promise of the American Government. 
Why, notwithstanding that the Foreign 
Enlistment Act, as it stood, was much 
more stringent than ours, and gave 
greater powers than ours now does, 
they passed a supplementary Act for 
the year, which gave such powers to 


the Government that one would hardly 
believe that such arbitrary powers would 
have been given to the Government of 
the United States. I hear cries of 
‘ Hear, hear ! ’ of a rather doubtful tone 
from the other side; but let hon. 
Gentlemen remember that that Act was 
passed twenty-five years ago, and no¬ 
body then said that the Americans were 
fond of submitting to tyranny. By this 
temporary Act, which received the 
assent of the President on the 10th of 
March, 1838, it was enacted— 

‘ That the several collectors, naval offi¬ 
cers, surveyors, inspectors of customs, mar¬ 
shals and deputy-marshals of the United 
States, and every other officer who may be 
empowered for the purpose by the President 
of the United States, are hereby respect¬ 
ively authorised and required to seize and 
detain any vessel which may be provided 
or prepared for any military expedition or 
enterprise against the territories or domin¬ 
ions of any foreign Prince or Power,' &c. 

It gives them power to seize a vessel 
without any proof—an absolute power 
to seize on suspicion, and detain any 
vessel for ten days, during which time 
they may gather evidence on the matter. 
If there was no proof the vessel was then 
to be released; but she was liable to be 
seized again if any new case should arise. 
To carry out this arbitrary and temporary 
Act, the whole powers of the militia 
and the volunteers of the country were 
placed at the disposal of these officers. 
That affords the third instance of the 
mode in which the American Govern¬ 
ment has legislated for the benefit of 
European States. But there is a fourth 
case, which affords another example, 
which occurred on the occasion of the 
Crimean war. On the breaking out of 
the war with Russia, in 1854, we sent a 
communication to the American Govern¬ 
ment, and a duplicate of it was sent from 
the French Government. We asked the 
American Government — 

' In the spirit of just reciprocity to give 
orders that no privateer under Russian 
colours shall be equipped, or victualled, or 
admitted with its prizes in the ports of 
the United States, and also that the citizens 



1863. 


AMERICAN WAR. I. 


3SS 


of the United Statesshall rigorously abstain 
from taking part in armaments of this 
nature, or in any other measure opposed 
to the duties of a strict neutrality.’ 

I will not now refer to the conduct 
pursued by the American Government 
in reference to the ship that was about 
half built for the Russian Government in 
America, and the building of which was 
suspended. I heard some person whis¬ 
per, that the building of that vessel was 
suspended because the Russian Govern¬ 
ment could not find the money to finish it; 
but will any one believe that, when it is 
known that the Russian Government were 
at the time spending millions a -week at 
Sebastopol ? The vessel was not finished 
until three years after the war with 
Russia. There was another vessel, called 
the Maury , which was suspected of being 
intended for the Russian Government, 
and was stopped under circumstances 
which showed a great deal more activity 
and vigilance than we have exhibited in 
the case of the Alabama. What I want 
to deduce from all these facts is this :— 
First, that the American Government 
have, from the very formation of their 
Union, shown a willingness to observe, 
maintain, and enforce a strict neutrality 
in reference to the wars which have fre¬ 
quently taken place amongst European 
States. Next, that they have done it 
under circumstances of the utmost diffi¬ 
culty. It is easy enough to maintain 
neutrality when you have no feeling the 
other way to contend with. They did 
it in spite of their sympathies, and in 
opposition to their wishes. There can 
be no doubt, that in the case of the 
Canadian rebellion, there was a strong 
feeling amongst the mass of the American 
people that a successful rebellion in 
Canada would have led to the annexation 
of Canada to the United States. There 
is no doubt that the strongest national 
yearnings were enlisted on the side of 
the Canadians; and I want to call the 
attention of the House to the fact, that, 
in spite of these temptations to go wrong, 
the United States have uniformly gone 
right on this question. We may have 
had other grounds of complaint—I think, 


for instance, that in regard to our enlist¬ 
ments in America, they persisted in their 
resentment against us in a manner that 
partook of unfriendly severity, if not of 
direct hostility; but in the matter of 
their Foreign Enlistment Acts, I repeat 
again, and let no one answer me with a 
vague statement of what he has heard 
somewhere or other—I challenge any 
one to show me in all our diplomatic 
correspondence a despatch which com¬ 
plains of an unredressed grievance under 
those Acts. 

I have mentioned these circumstances 
in the hope that they may become gener¬ 
ally known, and in order that they may 
bring the sentiments of this House, and 
the public opinion of this country, to a 
temper which shall incline us to act by 
the United States as they have acted by 
us. If the motives which I have ap¬ 
pealed to in this statement of facts will 
not have that effect, then I do not know 
that I ought to spend another minute in 
trying to bring any other motives to bear 
upon the minds of my countrymen. I 
do not intend to appeal to your fears, 
that would be out of the question ; but 
I will not sit down without saying a 
word or two with reference to the 
interest we have in the question. If 
gratitude for the past observance of an 
honourable neutrality is not sufficient, 
let us look at what will be the conse¬ 
quence of pursuing another course. The 
hon. and learned Gentleman the Soli¬ 
citor-General, in a speech from which I 
may not quote, as it was delivered in a 
previous debate this session, and which 
he has published as a pamphlet, laid it 
down, that we have only to deal with' 
municipal law, and that the Foreign En¬ 
listment Act was passed at our own 
will and pleasure, and that we may re¬ 
peal it in like manner at our own plea¬ 
sure. The Solicitor-General laid it down 
broadly, that the Foreign Enlistment 
Act was simply a measure of municipal 
law, which we might repeal at our own 
will and pleasure. Now, I join issue 
with the hon. and learned Gentleman, 
and I say we are bound as distinctly to the 
United States by the rules of honourable 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


APRIL 24, 


35 ^ 

reciprocity in this case as if treaty en¬ 
gagements existed. We have gone to 
the Americans, begging them not to al¬ 
low their citizens to molest us ; begging 
them not to allow privateers to be fitted 
out; and when it is clear that there has 
been no violation of their law, we are, 
I contend, bound to observe the same 
honourable neutrality. The hon. and 
learned Gentleman says, that if we choose 
to allow both parties to come and buy 
ships of war here, no infringement of 
our neutral position would, as a conse¬ 
quence, take place. That may be an 
abstract legal truth ; but what must we 
say of a statesman who stands up in the 
House of Commons and gives expression 
to such a dictum as that, to be quoted 
hereafter in Washington ? I am not 
going to discuss points of law with the 
hon. and learned Gentleman; that would 
be an act of presumption on my part ; 
and we may possibly observe neutrality 
either by abstaining from assisting either 
party in the contest, or by rendering 
assistance to both. Is that, however, 
let me ask, a state of things which we 
ought to covet? 

I should like to know from hon. Gen¬ 
tlemen opposite what would be our fate 
if any of those numerous wars in which 
we have been engaged, and to the recur¬ 
rence of which we are liable, if this doc¬ 
trine were carried fully into effect ? If, 
for instance, the little dark cloud which 
threatened a rupture with Brazil, had 
burst upon our heads, America would, 
according to the theory of the hon. and 
learned Gentleman, be entitled not only 
to build ships for us, but might fit out 
vessels for the Brazilian Government, to 
cruise in the name of that Government 
and with the commission of the Brazilian 
Emperor, against our commerce. But I 
will not rest my argument merely on the 
ground that this is a thing which might 
possibly happen, if we were to adopt the 
line of policy to which the hon. and 
learned Gentleman has, as I think, so 
unwisely referred. Can we, I would ask, 
look for the maintenance of the law rela¬ 
tive to foreign enlistment in America or 
elsewhere, unless we ourselves set the 


example of good faith? You have not 
only in America, but in France, a most 
stringent law on this subject. I wrote 
to a friend in France to ascertain what 
was the mode of proceeding there, in 
order to prevent vessels slipping from 
their ports, as the Alabama had done 
from ours; and I was told, that they 
required no Foreign Enlistment Act for 
the purpose. By a penal code, which I 
believe all the nations of the Continent 
imitate more or less, any citizen of 
France, who, without the consent of the 
Government, commits an act of hostility 
against a Foreign Power, by which the 
countiy incurs the risk of war, is liable 
to transportation. The law further pro¬ 
vides, that anybody who fits out a ship 
of war, or does any hostile act, owing to 
which an enemy inflicts reprisals on a 
French citizen, will likewise be held 
subject to the same penalty. This, you 
may say, is very severe; but then you 
want reciprocity with that country. The 
French do not ask you to pass a law in 
accordance with their model; but what 
both France and America will require is 
this—that you will, in the event of war, 
as far as lies in your power, prevent 
privateers from going out and preying 
upon their commerce. You may choose 
any way you please to do it; but surely 
you have too much common sense to 
imagine that you can induce America to 
abstain from such a system in the future, 
unless you observe the laws of a fair 
reciprocity in her regard. 

Now, is there, let me ask, no way in 
which you can prevent ships of war from 
sailing from your ports, threatening, as 
they do, the commerce of a friendly 
country, all of them built in England, 
manned from England, armed and 
equipped from England, that were never 
intended for any destination, but are 
roaming the seas without any fixed goal, 
and marking their track by fire and de¬ 
vastation ? That is the question to which 
you have to address yourselves ; and, un¬ 
less you are prepared to set your face 
against this system, the Foreign Enlist¬ 
ment Act will be, as the hon. and learned 
Member for Plymouth said, a dead letter; 


V 




1863. 


AMERICAN WAR. I. 


357 


and if it be made a dead letter here, most 
assuredly the same state of things will 
result elsewhere. 

Who, then, I should like to know, has 
the most to lose by the adoption of this 
system? I will show, by giving some 
figures, which tell us how large a propor¬ 
tion of the property afloat on salt water 
belongs to British capitalists. The lowest 
estimate I have heard formed of the value 
of this property, as entered through the 
insurance offices in the City and other 
quarters, shows that we have upon an 
average 100,000,000/. to 120,000,000/. 
sterling worth of the property of British 
capitalists on the seas. Rest assured, no 
other country has 30,000,000/. worth, 
and that you have as much property at 
stake upon the ocean as all the rest of 
the world put together. You have, more¬ 
over, 10,000,000 people in these islands 
to feed upon food brought from foreign 
countries. You get three-fourths of the 
tea and four-fifths of the silk from China; 
more than one-half of the tallow and 
hemp from Russia; there is more cotton, 
more wheat, more Indian corn, brought 
to us than to any other country. You, 
who are so powerful here, and can set 
the world at defiance in your island home, 
are, the moment a war of reprisals is 
made on your commerce, the most vul¬ 
nerable. The hon. Gentleman who says 
‘No,’ does not understand the position 
of the commerce of England. But be 
that as it may, is there, I would ask, 
nothing we can do to show our good faith 
in this matter ? Is it not derogatory that 
we should have any one in this country, 
and especially in this House, claiming to 
be educated and reflective, who would 
for a moment consent to put himself on 
the side of those who are committing 
those acts against the law of the country 
and its future welfare? I want public 
opinion to be ranged on the side of law 
in this as well as in every other matter. 
Is there any person who wishes to give 
his sanction to an offence against the law 
of the country ? Every person engaged 
in the building of ships of war, under the 
circumstances to which I have referred, 
subjects himself to penal consequences— 


to fine and imprisonment. Is there any 
person who will encourage such a practice 
as that ? Is there nothing we can do to 
show that we wish to put it down ? The 
case of the Alabama is one that is, per¬ 
haps, clearer than the case of the Florida , 
or the Japan. The last-mentioned vessel 
was, however, one not only built here for 
the Confederate Government, but manned 
by Englishmen surreptitiously conveyed 
on board the ship. The Alabama, it was 
said, escaped from our port under the 
pretence of going on a trip of pleasure, 
and it was stated in one of the despatches 
that orders were issued to have the vesse/ 
stopped at Nassau. If she was to b. 
stopped at Nassau, why was she noi 
stopped elsewhere ? That vessel has been 
paying visits to our ports in other islands, 
and has been received with something 
like favour and consideration. There is 
a legal difficulty, I know, raised—that 
you cannot stop a vessel after her first 
voyage; but my answer is, that the 
Alabama has never made a voyage at all; 
she has been cruising about, and has no 
home. Why do you not forbid the re¬ 
entry of those vessels into your ports, 
that left them, manned by a majority of 
English sailors, in violation of the Foreign 
Enlistment Act? Would any person 
have a right to complain of that ? Pro¬ 
claim the vessels that thus steal away 
from your ports outlaws, so far as your 
ports are concerned. If you were to do 
what I suggest, other countries would 
follow your example, and put an end to 
those clandestine proceedings by making 
them unprofitable. 

It is our duty, in reference to the ob¬ 
ligations of the past—it is our duty, in 
reference to the stake we have in future, 
to put an end to the present state of 
things. The whole system of the Foreign 
Enlistment Act is, I may add, only two 
hundred years old. The ancients did 
not know the meaning of the word ‘ neu¬ 
trality,’ as we know it at the present 
day. In the middle ages, people were 
hardly aware of such a thing as neutral¬ 
ity ; the first Foreign Enlistment Act is 
hardly two hundred years old, and since 
that time that system of legislation has 



358 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


APRIL 24 , 1863 . 


grown up. It has been a code of legis¬ 
lation that has gradually grown up, and 
is now looked to by the nations to assist 
in keeping the peace, and preventing 
the catastrophe of a general war. Shall 
we be the first to roll back the tide of 
civilisation, and thus practically go back 
to barbarism and the middle ages, by 
virtually repealing this international code, 


by which we preserve the rights and in¬ 
terests of neutrality ? I cannot but think 
that this House and the country, when 
they reflect on the facts of the case, will 
consider, that if they in any way lend 
their sanction to such a retrograde policy 
they would be unworthy of themselves, 
and would be guilty of a great crime 
against humanity. 




AMERICAN WAR 

II. 


ROCHDALE, NOVEMBER 24, 1863. 

[At the general election of 1859, Mr. Cobden was returned for the borough of Rochdale, 
and sat for this town during the rest of his life. The following was one of his annual 
addresses to his constituents.] 


It is to me, as your representative, a 
very happy and pleasant omen to find 
my arrival here greeted by so large an 
assemblage of my friends. It is not an 
unreasonable thing,—I think it is the 
least that can be expected from a Member 
of Parliament, that he should, once a 
year at least, meet his constituents face 
to face, to state to them his views upon 
the passing events of the day, and to 
hear from them in a public assembly like 
this what are their wishes and opinions 
with reference to his future conduct. 
Generally, when a Member makes his 
annual appearance, it is expected that 
he should have something to relate 
about the proceedings of the immedi¬ 
ately preceding session of Parliament. 
Well, I should be very much at a loss 
for a text, if you confined me to the 
topics furnished by our proceedings dur¬ 
ing the last session. The best I can say 
of the present Parliament is, that it is 
drawing near to its end. It failed to 
perform any service for the country 
when it was in its prime, and therefore 
you will not expect any good from it in 
its decrepitude. The sooner it is re¬ 
turned to the country to undergo the 
renewal of the representative system, I 
think the better for the country, and the 
better for Parliament. Now, I think, 


when a new Parliament meets, it will 
have to be furnished with principles 
from the country. The great lack of the 
present Parliament is, that it is desti¬ 
tute of principle or purpose. Probably 
we, whom we will call the Free-traders 
of this country—we have a right to call 
ourselves Free-traders here, if we have 
anywhere — probably we are largely 
responsible for that state of things in 
Parliament. We have been, contrary 
to our professed principles, a kind of 
monopolists of the public arena for 
nearly the last quarter of a century. It 
will be twenty-five years next month 
since my friend here to my left (Mr. 
Bright), and so many around me, first 
joined together to commence that effort 
which has been alluded to by your 
Mayor, and which has ended now in the 
complete recognition of Free-trade prin¬ 
ciples. Now, during all that time, we 
may be said to have occupied pretty ex 
clusively the attention of political parties 
and of statesmen. I found the field occu¬ 
pied by labourers who were advocating 
other principles. For instance, there 
were the advocates of parliamentary re¬ 
form ; there were the advocates of religi¬ 
ous equality,—and by religious equality, 
I mean to deal, for instance, with that 
great and glaring abuse of the system of 



360 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 24, 


religious equality—the Irish Church,— 
which Lord Brougham has denounced 
as the foulest abuse in any civilised 
country. Well, we elbowed out of the 
way these questions; we had a question 
in hand that would not bear delay—we 
were advocating a question of bread, 
and employment for the people. After 
having accomplished our object,—and 
this last session of Parliament has fin¬ 
ished the work,—it had just languid 
force enough to carry the last remaining 
measures to complete the Free-trade 
system—helped a little by the extraneous 
and rather exceptional proceeding of a 
foreign treaty —but at last, this present 
Parliament has completed the work of 
Free Trade. By Free Trade, I mean 
that it has settled that great controversy 
as between Protection and Free Trade. 
At least, there protection ends to-day; 
but our children must carry on the 
work. There is still the question of 
direct and indirect taxation; there is 
still the question of a large reduction of 
expenditure in the Government. But the 
great controversy as between Protection 
and Free Trade is now settled, and I 
say the next Parliament will require to 
be endowed with new principles by the 
country when we have another general 
election. 

Now, some people say that there is 
great apathy and indifference in the coun¬ 
try. I don't think there is a want of in¬ 
terest in the country upon public affairs. 
I think there is a lively interest in the 
public proceedings of the whole world, 
and the public mind is very demonstra¬ 
tive. But what I observe is this, that the 
attention of the country seems to be rather 
given to the affairs of other nations than 
to our own. We are something as a nation 
as you would be in Rochdale as a bo¬ 
rough, if your Town Council were pretty 
generally employed in discussing the 
affairs of Preston, Blackburn, or Manches¬ 
ter, instead of its own. And it is curious 
enough, that whilst we are devoting more 
than ever of our attention to foreign 
politics, we are still constantly professing 
the principle of non-intervention. We 
have non-intervention on our lips, but 


there is always a desire for a little inter¬ 
vention in the corner of our heart for 
some special object or other abroad. I 
don’t charge this against any particular 
party or any Government. We have all 
ourlittlepet projectsof non-intervention. 
For instance, some would manage the 
affairs of the Americans ; others would 
take in charge to regulate the affairs of 
Poland ; others are interested in Italy ; 
and so it is that, in spite of our profes¬ 
sions of non-intervention, we are, in fact, 
I think, as far as my observation goes, 
interfering more than ever with the affairs 
of foreign countries. Some people say 
it is the telegram ; they say that Reuter’s 
telegram is the daily morning dram, and 
that it so stimulates the palate, and comes 
in contact with the brain—America with 
a great battle, or Poland, or somewhere 
else—that we have no taste for the simple 
element of which our domestic affairs 
are made up. Now, for instance, we have 
at the present moment a party in this 
country advocating an interference in the 
affairs of America ; for when I say in¬ 
terference, I mean that party here who 
advocate eitherrecognition, or something 
which means interference, if it means 
anything. 

I have seen lately the report of two 
meetings of constitutents in the west of 
England, one at Bristol and the other at 
Plymouth, in which Members, Liberal 
Members, representing popular consti¬ 
tuencies, have been recommending that 
the Government should enter into ar¬ 
rangements with some foreign country 
of Europe, in order to recognise the 
Southern States of America, and put an 
end to that war. [A Voice: ‘ Very 
proper.’] And you will observe, that the 
idea which pervaded the public mind, 
at least which pervaded it in the two 
cases I allude to—the speakers and the 
audience—the idea was, that this affair 
in America was to be settled in a pecu¬ 
liar way, according to the dictates of 
these particular parties. Well, now, I 
think, from the beginning, that during 
this American war, this lamentable con¬ 
vulsion, from which you have suffered so 
much, I think that one of the great fun- 



AMERICAN WAR. II. 


1863. 

damental errors in the conduct of states¬ 
men, in the conduct of Governments, and 
in the conduct of a large portion of the 
influential classes in this country, has 
been, that they have made up their minds 
that union cannot be the issue of this 
civil war in America, and that there will 
be a separation between North and 
South. I told you when I was here last, 
when that spirit, if possible, was more 
rife than now, I told you that I did not 
myself believe that the war would issue 
in that way. I have stated that opinion 
since in the House of Commons ; and I 
declare to you, that, looking at what is 
called in a cant phrase in London, ‘soci¬ 
ety;’ looking at society — and society, 
I must tell you, means the upper ten 
thousand, with whom Members of Par¬ 
liament are liable to come in contact at 
the clubs and elsewhere in London ; 
looking at what is called ‘ society’—look¬ 
ing at the ruling class, if we may use the 
phrase, that meet in the purlieus of Lon¬ 
don, nineteen-twentieths of them were 
firmly convinced from the first that the 
civil war in America could only end in 
separation. Now, how far that convic¬ 
tion—how far the wish was father to the 
thought, I will not pretend to say. I 
believe that the feeling has been a sin¬ 
cere one ; and I believe it has also been 
founded on the belief that, looking at 
the vast extent of territory occupied by 
the insurgents in the civil war, it was 
impossible to subjugate it by any force 
that could be brought against them by 
the North. 

But there has been, I must say, a most 
lamentable display of ignorance amongst 
those classes to which I refer, if you may 
judge by the conduct of the organs of 
the press, which may be considered the 
exponents of their views ;—errors, for 
example, in the course of mighty rivers, 
which those in England can bear no 
comparison to, but described in your 
leading organs in London as running one 
into the other, utterly regardless of the 
rights of geography. There are States 
in America of 1,500,000 inhabitants, 
where there are vast shipping ports for 
raw produce to be shipped into various 


361 

parts of the world. In the interior of 
that country, in one city, I have seen a 
mile of steam boats moored side by side, 
not lengthways , and those great cities 
and the great commerce theypossess form 
part of the strength and resource of 
North America. Your ruling classes in 
this country know nothing of this ; you 
don’t find it in the books of Oxford and 
Cambridge, which the undergraduates 
are obliged to learn before they can pass 
their examination. It is in utter ignor¬ 
ance of these resources that this opinion 
has grown up. Accident, perhaps, more 
than anything else, has made me ac¬ 
quainted as well with the statistics and 
geography of that country as my own. I 
think no one in this vast assembly will 
ever live to see two separate nations 
within the confines of the present United 
States of America. I have never believed 
we should, and I believe it less than ever 
now. But I will tell you candidly, that 
if it was not for one cause, I should con¬ 
sider as hopeless and useless the attempt 
to subjugate the Southern States ; and I 
will tell the parties upon whose views I 
have been commenting, that it is the 
object and purpose which they have that 
has rendered success by the Secessionists 
absolutely impossible. Indeed, if the mo¬ 
ral and intellectual faculties of this coun¬ 
try had not been misled upon that ques¬ 
tion, systematically misled, they would 
have been unanimous and of one opinion. 
We were told in the House of Commons 
by one, whom it was almost incredible 
to behold and think of saying so—who 
was once the great champion of demo¬ 
cracy and of the rights and privileges of 
the unsophisticated millions,—we heard 
him say—I heard him say myself—that 
this civil war was originated because the 
South wished to establish Free-trade 
principles, and the North would not 
allow it. I have travelled—and it is for 
this that I am now going to mention, 
that I touch upon the subject at all—I 
travelled in the United States in 1859, 
the year before the fatal shot was fired 
at Fort Sumter, which has made such 
terrible reverberations since. I travelled 
in the United States—I visited Wash- 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 24, 


362 

ington during the session of the Congress, 
and wherever I go, and whenever I 
travel abroad, whether it be in France, 
America, Austria, or Russia, I at once 
become the centre of all those who form 
and who avow strong convictions and 
purposes in reference to Free-trade prin¬ 
ciples. W ell, I confess to you what I 
confessed to my friends when I returned, 
that I felt disappointed, when I was at 
Washington in the spring of 1859, that 
there was so little interest felt on the 
Free-trade question. There was no party 
formed, no public agitation; there was 
no discussion whatever upon the subject 
of Free Trade and protection. The 
political field was wholly occupied by 
one question, and that question was 
Slavery. 

Now, I will mention an illustrative 
fact, which I have not seen referred to. 
To my mind, it is conclusive on this 
subject. In December, i860, whilst 
Congress was sitting, and when the 
country was in the agony of suspense, 
fearing the impending rupture amongst 
them, a committee of their body, com¬ 
prising thirty-three members, being one 
representative from every State then in 
the Union,—that committee, called the 
Committee of Thirty-three, sat from 
December nth, i860, to January 14th, 
1861. They were inst ructed by Congress 
to inquire into the perilous state of the 
Union, and try to devise some means by 
which the catastrophe of a secession 
could be averted. Here is a report of 
the proceedings in that committee [hold¬ 
ing up a book in his hand], I am afraid 
there is not another report in this country. 
I have reason to know so. There are 
forty pages. I have read every line. 
The members from the Southern States, 
the representatives of the Slave States, 
were invited by the representatives of 
the Free States to state candidly and 
frankly what were the terms they required, 
in order that they might continue peace¬ 
able in the Union ; but in every page you 
see their propositions brought forward, 
and from beginning to end there is not 
one syllable said about tariff or taxation. 
From the beginning to end there is 


not a grievance alleged but that which 
was connected with the maintenance of 
slavery. There were propositions calling 
on the North to give increased security 
for the maintenance of that institution ; 
they are invited to extend the area of 
slavery ; to make laws, by which fugitive 
slaves might be given up; they are 
pressed to make treaties with foreign 
Powers, by which foreign Powers might 
give up fugitive slaves ; but, from begin¬ 
ning to end, no grievance is mentioned 
except connected with slavery,—it is 
slavery, slavery, slavery, from the begin¬ 
ning to the end. Is it not astonishing, 
in the face of facts like these, that any 
one should have the temerity, so little 
regard to decency and self-respect, as to 
get up in the House of Commons, and 
say that secession has been upon a ques¬ 
tion of Free Trade and Protection? 

Well, this is a war to perpetuate and 
extend human slavery. It is a war not 
to defend slavery as it was left by their 
ancestors—I mean, a thing to be retained 
and to be apologised for,—it is a war 
to establish a slave empire,—a war in 
which slavery shall be made the corner¬ 
stone of the social system, —a war which 
shall be defended and justified on scrip¬ 
tural and on ethnological grounds. Well, 
I say, God pardon the men, who, in this 
year of grace 1863, should think that 
such a project as that could be crowned 
with success. Now, you know that I 
have, from the first, never believed it 
possible that the South should succeed ; 
and I have founded that faith mainly 
upon moral instincts, which teach us 
to repudiate the very idea that anything 
so infamous should succeed. No ; it is 
certain that in this world the virtues and 
the forces go together, and the vices and 
the weaknesses are inseparable. It is, 
therefore, that I felt certain that this 
project never could succeed. For how 
is it ? There is a community with nearly 
half of its population slaves, and they 
were attempting to fight another com¬ 
munity where every working man is a 
free man. It is as though Yorkshire 
and Lancashire were to enter into con¬ 
flict, and it was understood that in the 



1863 . 


AMERICAN WAR. II. 


case of one, all the labourers who did the 
muscular work of the country, whether 
in the field or in the factory, whether in 
the roads or in the domestic establish¬ 
ments—in the one case, you would have 
that bone and muscle, the sinew of the 
country, eliminated from the fighting 
population, and not only eliminated from 
the fighting population, but ready to take 
advantage of this war, either to run away 
or fight against you. How could we, so 
circumstanced, fighting against a neigh¬ 
bouring country, where every working 
man was fighting for his own—how could 
we have a chance, if our physical force 
was crippled, and we were devoid of all 
moral influences ? That is the condition 
in which these two sections of the United 
States are now placed. In the one case, 
you have a condition in which labour is 
held honourable. Have we not heard 
it used as a reproach by some people, 
who fancy themselves in alliance with 
the aristocracy—some of our Ministers, 
who would lead us to suppose they are 
of the aristocratic order ? 

Now, we hear it used as an argument 
against the North, that their President, 
Mr. Lincoln, was a ‘ rail-splitter. ’ But 
what does that prove with regard to the 
U nited States, but that labour is held in 
honour in that country ? And with such 
a conflict going on, and with such an 
example as I feel no doubt will follow, 
I cannot, if I speak of such a contest as 
that, say that it is a struggle for empire 
on the one side, and for independence on 
the other. I say it is an aristocratic 
rebellion against a democratic Govern¬ 
ment. That is the title I would give to 
it; and in all history, when you have 
had the aristocracy pitted against the 
people, in a hand-to-hand contest, the 
aristocracy have always gone down under 
the heavy blows of the democracy. 
When I speak this, let no one say I am 
indifferent to the process of misery and 
destitution, and ruin and bloodshed, now 
going on in that country. No. My 
indignation against the South is, that 
they fired the first shot, and made them¬ 
selves responsible for this result. I take, 
probably, a stronger view than most 


363 

people in this country, and certainly a 
stronger view than anybody in America, 
of the vast sacrifices of life, and of 
economical comfort and resources, which 
must follow to the North from this 
struggle. They are mistaken if they 
think they can carry on a civil war like 
this, drawing a million men from their 
productive industry, to engage merely in 
a process of destruction, and spending 
their two or three hundred millions 
sterling—I say they are mistaken and 
deluded if they think they can carry on a 
war like that without a terrible collapse, 
sooner or later, and I am sure that there 
will be a great prostration in every part 
of the community. But that being so, 
makes me still more indignant and in¬ 
tolerant of the cause; but of the result I 
have no more doubt than I have on any 
subject that lies in the future. 

And now I would ask you—why do 
some people wish that the United States 
should be cut up in two ? They think it 
desirable that it should be weakened. 
Will that view bear discussion for a 
moment? I hold not. I am of the 
opinion which our statesmen held in the 
time of Canning, who thought it desir¬ 
able for Europe that America should be 
strong; desirable that she should be 
strong, because it would thereby prevent 
European Powers from interfering in 
American affairs. That has been the 
case hitherto. That country has pros¬ 
pered. It has never come to interfere 
with European politics, and it has kept 
European Governments from interfering 
in other American States which have 
not been so prosperous or so orderly as 
the United States. And now see what 
has followed. See what has happened 
already from this disruption of the United 
States. You have France gone to 
Mexico ; you have Spain gone to San 
Domingo. Why, there are horrors un¬ 
utterable now going on in San Domingo, 
because Spain has gone and invaded that 
country with the view to re-conquest; 
and the French Government has embark¬ 
ed in a career in Mexico which I will 
only characterise as the greatest mistake 
committed by the monarch of that 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 24, 


3 6 4 

country. This enterprise would never 
have been undertaken if the United States 
had not been in the difficulties of this 
civil war ; and it is the least creditable 
part of those enterprises that they have 
been undertaken because America was 
weak. But it only required that the 
North should have been a little weaker, 
and then these silly people would have 
been going about for an interference in 
America, and then they would have 
carried out their project, and you would 
have had France and other Powers go¬ 
ing over to America to meddle in that 
quarrel. 

Now, is that desirable? Don’t you 
think we have enough to do at home ? 
Do you think, now, that Europe has so 
much wisdom to spare in the manage¬ 
ment of her affairs, that she can afford 
to cross the Atlantic to set the new world 
in order? If so, what is the meaning 
of the utterances which we have lately 
heard from Imperial lips, calling for a 
Congress of the Powers of Europe ? 
And what for ? To form a new pact for 
the European States, because the ar¬ 
rangement entered into at the Treaty of 
Vienna is, to use the Emperor’s own 
words, torn all to tatters. Well, but that 
is not very consolatory for us. We fought 
for more than twenty years, we spent a 
thousand millions of treasure in that 
great war, and the only result we have 
to show is the settlement at the Treaty 
of Vienna ;•—and now we are told that 
it is all torn to tatters! Well, I say, 
that does not encourage us to enter upon 
a similar career again—at all events, it 
means this, that Europe has quite enough 
to do at home, without going, at the 
instigation of silly people, to interfere 
with the affairs of America. I would 
not be thought to say one word against 
the project of the Emperor of the French 
to hold a Congress. There is one passage 
in his address which prevents my treating 
it with unqualified opposition or indiffer¬ 
ence. For the first time a great poten¬ 
tate—the head of the most powerful 
military nation of Europe —has called a 
Congress, to devise, amongst other mea¬ 
sures, the means of reducing those enor¬ 


mous standing armaments, which are the 
curse and the peril of Europe at this time. 
But this I would say, that if there should 
be a Congress, and this part of the pro¬ 
gramme — a diminution of armaments 
is made the primary and fundamental 
object of that Congress, I am afraid 
from past experience that it would pro¬ 
bably only lead to an increase of the 
evil. For I remember the Congress in 
1856, after the Crimean war, which war 
was to establish peace, and enable us to 
reduce our armaments. After that war, 
we had a Congress in Paris in 1856, and 
they arranged the peace of Europe. 

Well, what has happened since ? 
There are nearly a million more men 
trained to arms in the two services in 
Europe now than there were before the 
Crimean war, and England itself has 
200,000 of these men, besides a gigantic 
scheme of fortifications such as the 
world never saw before in one project. 
One of the objects for which the Con¬ 
gress is to be called is to arrange the 
difficulties and troubles in certain Euro¬ 
pean States. There is the case of Poland 
particularly referred to. I am not un¬ 
mindful of the claims of Poland, or of 
other countries struggling for what they 
consider their rights; that is, where they 
can show a programme of grievances 
such as I believe the Poles can do; but 
I have not much faith in the power of 
any one country to go and settle the 
affairs of another country upon anything 
like a permanent basis; and there is the 
ground on which I am such a strong 
advocate of the principle of non-inter¬ 
vention ; it is because intervention must 
almost, by its very nature, fail in its ob¬ 
ject. There are two things we confound 
when we talk of intervention in foreign 
affairs. The intervention is easy enough, 
but the power to accomplish the object 
is another thing. You must take pos¬ 
session of a country, in order to impress 
your policy upon it; and that becomes 
a tyranny of another sort. But if you go 
to intervene in the affairs of Poland, with 
a view to rescue them from the attacks 
of Russia, I maintain that so far as Eng¬ 
land is concerned, you are attempting an 



1863. 


AMERICAN WAR. II. 


impossibility; and if you cannot do it by 
physical force, if you cannot do it by 
war, then I humbly submit that you are 
certain to do it more harm than good if 
you attempt to do it by diplomacy. Mark 
what has been done in Poland on this 
occasion. We have had three Powers, 
every one writing despatches stating that, 
unless certain measures are acceded to, 
Russia is threatened with the force of 
these united Powers. What has been 
the effect of that ? You have made the 
whole Russian people united as against 
these foreign Powers. They might not 
have been so exasperated against their 
own people, but immediately foreigners 
step in, you have had the whole Russian 
people roused to a patriotic frenzy—not 
to oppose the Poles, but to oppose some 
outside Powers that are attempting to 
interfere with them. The consequence 
is, that the Poles, who have been en¬ 
couraged to go on by the hope of foreign 
interference, have been placed in a 
position far more perilous to them than 
if you had never interfered at all. Some 
people will say, do you intend to leave 
these evils without a remedy? Well, I 
have faith in God, and I think there is a 
Divine Providence which will obviate 
this difficulty; and 1 don’t think that 
Providence has given it into our hands 
to execute His behests in this world. I 
think, when injustice is done, whether 
in Poland or elsewhere, the very process 
of injustice is calculated, if left to itself, 
to promote its own cure; because injust¬ 
ice produces weakness—injustice pro¬ 
duces injury to the parties who commit it. 

But do you suppose that the Almighty 
has given to this country, or any other 
country, the power and the responsibility 
of regulating the affairs and remedying 
the evils of other countries ? No. We 
have not set a sufficiently pure example 
to be entitled to claim that power. When 
I see that Russia is burning Polish vil¬ 
lages, 1 am restrained from even re¬ 
proaching them, because I am afraid 
they will point Japanwards, and scream 
in our ears the word ‘ Kagosima ! ’ Now, 
that word Kagosima brings me to a sub¬ 
ject upon which I wish to say one or two 


365 

words. I see that my noble Friend, the 
Secretary of the Admiralty (Lord Clar¬ 
ence Paget), who always enters upon 
the defence of any naval abomination 
with so much cheerfulness, that he really 
seems to me to like the task ; he has 
been speaking at a meeting of his con¬ 
stituents, and he alluded to the horrible 
massacre which took place in Japan, to 
which, amongst others, I called your at¬ 
tention ; and he says it is quite wrong 
to suppose that our gallant officers ever 
contemplated to destroy that town ot 
Kagosima, with its 150,000 of rich, pros¬ 
perous, commercial people—they never 
intended it—it was quite an accident. 
Well, unfortunately, he cannot have read 
the despatch which appeared in the 
Gazette , addressed to his own depart¬ 
ment, the Admiralty, for it is stated in 
that despatch that the admiral had him¬ 
self threatened the Japanese envoys who 
came on board his vessel the day before 
the bombardment of that city, that it 
they did not accede to the demands made 
upon them, he would next day burn 
their city. The threat was actually made, 
and the conflagration was only the 
carrying out of the threat. But there 
was another fact in connection with that 
affair for which I feel greatly ashamed 
and indignant. It is for the way in which 
it was managed—the stealthy, shabby, 
mean way in which it was managed—to 
make it appear that the Japanese were 
the aggressors in that affair. Lord 
Russell’s instructions to Admiral Kuper 
were, that he might go and take this 
Japanese prince’s ships of war, or he 
might shell his palace, or he might shell 
his forts. He does not tell him to do 
all these things ; he was to go to demand 
satisfaction, and, in case satisfaction 
were not given, he suggested to do cer¬ 
tain things by way of reprisals, and one 
of the things he was ordered to do was 
to take these ships belonging to this 
prince. Well, the ships were moored— 
hid, as it were, concealed away—at some 
distance from the city, and steamers were 
sent by our admiral to seize these vessels, 
and they were not within miles of the 
fort which was firing on our ships. It 




366 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 24, 


the admiral had contented himself with 
trying to seize these ships, which were 
three steamers of great value, which had 
been bought from Europeans—had he 
contented himself, according to his in¬ 
structions, with trying to seize these 
steamers, and waited to see if this 
brought the prince to his senses, there 
would have been no conflagration. But 
how did he act? He lashes these 
steamers alongside his own steamers, 
and then with his whole fleet goes under 
the batteries of the Japanese, and waits 
for several hours ; and when the Japan¬ 
ese fire on him, he says that the honour 
of the British flag required that he should 
at once commence to bombard the 
palace, because he had been attacked 
first. 

Now I remember—I remember quite 
well, in the case of a very analogous 
proceeding—in the case of our last war 
with the Burmese, I wrote a digest of the 
Blue Book giving an account of that 
terrible war, and to which I gave the 
title of ‘ How wars are got up in India ’ 
—I remember precisely the same man¬ 
oeuvres were resorted to. Some of the 
ships of war belonging to the Burmese 
Government were seized by our naval 
officers from under their forts, and be¬ 
cause they fired on these vessels in the 
act of carrying off their whole navy, it 
was said that they commenced the war, 
and the honour of the British flag required 
immediately the bombardment of the 
place. Let us suppose that a French 
fleet came off Portsmouth, and took three 
of our ships of war at Spithead, and 
lashed them alongside their steamers, 
and then came within range of our forts 
at Portsmouth ; if the commander of 
these forts had not fired on these ships 
with all the available resources he had, 
he would assuredly have been hung up 
to his own flag-staff on the first occasion. 
Well, now, is it not deplorable that we 
English, directly we get east the Cape 
of Good Hope, lose our morality and 
our Christianity ?— that we resort to 
all the meanness, and chicanery, and 
treachery with which we accuse those 
Oriental people of practising upon us ? 


But we forget what De Tocqueville says 
in speaking of similar proceedings of ours 
in India. He says: ‘ You ought not, as 
Englishmen and Christians, to lower 
yourselves to the level of that people. 
Remember, your sole title to be there at 
all is because you are supposed to be 
superior to them. ’ Do you suppose these 
things can be done by us Englishmen 
with impunity—do you think there is no 
retributive justice that will mete out 
vengeance to us as a people if we con¬ 
tinue to do this ; and if there is no com¬ 
punction on the part of this community ? 

There is a writer at Oxford University, 
one who writes bold truths in the most 
effective manner, who is doing it for the 
instruction of the next generation of 
statesmen—that is the Professor of His¬ 
tory at Oxford. Mr. Goldwin Smith, 
treating of this very subject, says: ‘There 
is no example, I believe, in history, from 
that of imperial Rome down to that of 
imperial France, of a nation which has 
trampled out the rights of others, but 
that ultimately forfeited its own.’ Do 
you think those maxims, which we toler¬ 
ate in the treatment of three, four, or 
nve millions of people in the East—do 
you think that they will not turn back 
to curse us in our own daily lives, and 
in our own political organization ? You 
have India; you have acquired India 
by conquest, and by means which no 
Englishman can look back upon with 
satisfaction. You hold India; your white 
faces are predominating and ruling in 
that country; and has it ever occurred 
to you at what cost you rule ? We have 
lately had a report of the sanitary state 
of the army in India; why, if you take 
into account the losses we sustain in that 
country by fever, by debauchery, by 
ennui, and by climate; if you take into 
account the extra number of deaths and 
invalids in the army and civil service, in 
consequence of the climate, you are 
holding India at a cost — if I may be 
permitted to use the term—of a couple 
of battles of Waterloo every year. Is 
there not a tremendous responsibility 
accompanied with this, that you are to 
tolerate your lawless adventurers to pene- 




1863. 


AMERICAN WAR. II. 


367 


trate not only into China, but in Japan, j 
in your name? The history of all the 
proceedings in China at this time is as 
dishonourable to us as a nation as were 
the proceedings in Spain in the times of 
Cortes and Pizarro. When they fought, 
they did not commit greater atrocities 
than Englishmen have done in China. 
They have them mixing up themselves 
in this civil war and rebellion for the 
sake of loot, for the sake of plunder, 
entering towns, and undertaking to head 
these Chinese—aiding the Chinese Go¬ 
vernment—in storming these defenceless 
towns. They are so far off; their pro¬ 
ceedings are done at so great a distance, 
that you don’t feel them or see them, or 
know your responsibility ; but they will 
find you out, and find out your children. 

I remember when in the House of Com¬ 
mons, I brought the conduct of our 
agents at Canton, who were opposing 
the Chinese authority—that is, the au¬ 
thority of the Chinese Government—I 
was met by the present Prime Minister 
with this argument: Why do you have 
such sympathy with this Chinese Govern¬ 
ment? Why, it is so detestable to go¬ 
vernment of life and property, and the 
people are so insecure, that you can 
buy a substitute for a few hundred 
dollars if you are ordered to be executed, 
—another Chinaman, who will go and 
be executed for you. So terrible is the 
Government, that they don’t value life 
as they do in other countries. Now, 
what are they doing? I get up and op¬ 
pose our assistance to the present Tartar 
Government, and am answered by the 
same Prime Minister, why you are de¬ 
fending the Taepings; they are such 
monsters of humanity, and so odious, and 
all the rest of the epithets are applied to 
them which were applied to the Chinese 
Government. Yet now you are support¬ 
ing the Government against the rebels, 
when five or six years ago Lord Pal merston 
told you the Government was so odious, 
that life was not valued under it. How 
is it that our Government is found in 
alliance with the most odious Govern¬ 
ments of the world? There is the Go¬ 
vernment of Turkey, which is our especial 


pet and protege. There is the Govern 
ment of China; we have lately been in 
terfering to help the Emperor of Morocco; 
and the Government of Austria, which 
is only a Government and an army, and 
not a nation, is also our pet and ally. 

I will only say one word before I sit 
down, upon a subject which I hope to 
see the order of the day again. I am 
talking very much against my own prin¬ 
ciples upon these distant questions, but 
it is because they are made home ques¬ 
tions and vital questions by the course 
pursued by other parties ; but I want to 
see us called back to our own domestic 
affairs, and first and foremost amongst 
those affairs, I consider—notwithstand¬ 
ing the attempt to shelve—first and fore¬ 
most, and that which lies at the bottom 
of all others, is a reform in the repre¬ 
sentation of the country. It has been a 
fashion of late to talk of an extension of 
the franchise as something not to be 
tolerated, because it is assumed that the 
manners of the people were not fitted to 
take a part in the Government; and they 
point to America and France, and other 
places, and they draw comparisons be¬ 
tween this country and other countries. 
Now, I hope I shall not be considered 
revolutionary—because at my age I don’t 
want any revolutions—they won’t serve 
me, I am sure, or anybody that belongs 
to me. England may perhaps compare 
very favourably with most other countries, 
if you draw the line in society tolerably 
high—if you compare the condition of 
the rich and the upper classes of this 
country, or a considerable portion of the 
middle classes, with the same classes 
abroad. Well, I admit the comparison 
is very favourable indeed. I don’t think 
a rich man—barring the climate, which 
is not very good—could be very much 
happier anywhere else than in England ; 
but I have to say as follows to my op¬ 
ponents, who treat this question of 
the franchise as one that is likely to 
bring the masses of the people down from 
their present state to the level of other 
countries. 

I have been a great traveller,—I have 
travelled in most civilised countries, and 



3 68 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 24, 


I assert that the masses of the people of 
this country do not compare so favour¬ 
ably with the masses of other countries 
as I could wish. I find in other coun¬ 
tries a greater number of people with 
property than there are in England. I 
don’t know, perhaps, any country in the 
world where the masses of the people 
are so illiterate as in England. It is no 
use your talking of your army and navy, 
your exports and your imports ; it is no 
use telling me you have a small portion of 
your people exceedingly well off. I want 
to make the test in a comparison of the 
majority of the people against a majority 
in any other country. I say that with 
regard to some things in foreign countries 
we don’t compare so favourably. The 
English peasantry has no parallel on the 
face of the earth. You have no other 
peasantry like that of England—you have 
no other country in which it is entirely 
divorced from the land. There is no 
other country of the world where you 
will not find men turning up the furrow 
in their own freehold. You won’t find 
that in England. I don’t want any revo¬ 
lution or agrarian outrages by which we 
should change all this. But this I find 
to be quite consistent with human nature, 
that wherever I go the condition of the 
people is very generally found to be 
pretty good in comparison to the power 
they have to take care of themselves. 
And if you have a class entirely divorced 
from political power, and there is another 
country where they possess it, the latter 
will be treated with more consideration, 
they will have greater advantages, they 
will be better educated, and have a 
better chance of having property than in 
a country where they are deprived of the 
advantage of political power. But we must 
remember this : we have been thirty 
years—it is more than thirty years since 
our Reform Bill was passed ; and during 
that time great changes have taken place 
in other countries. Nearly all your 
colonies since that time have received re¬ 
presentative institutions. They are much 
freer in Australia and New Zealand, and 
much freer in their representative system 
than we are in England ; and thirty years 


ago they were entirely under the domin¬ 
ation of our Colonial Office. Well, go 
on the Continent, you find there wide 
extension of political franchises all over 
the country. Italy, and Austria even, is 
stirring its dry bones ; you have all Ger¬ 
many now more or less invested with 
popular sovereignty; and I say, that, 
with all our boasted maxims of superi¬ 
ority as a self-governing people, we don’t 
maintain our relative rank in the world, 
for we are all obliged to acknowledge 
that we dare not entrust a considerable 
part of the population of this country with 
political power, for fear they should 
make a revolutionary and dangerous use 
of it. Besides, bear in mind, that both 
our political parties—both our aristo¬ 
cratic parties, have already pledged 
themselves to an extension of the fran¬ 
chise. The Queen has been made to 
recommend from her throne the exten¬ 
sion of the franchise; and you have 
placed the governing classes in this 
country in the wrong for all future time, 
if they do not fulfil those promises, and 
adopt those recommendations. They are 
placed in the wrong, and some day or 
other they may be obliged to yield to 
violence and clamour what I think they 
ought in sound statesmanship to do tran¬ 
quilly and voluntarily, and in proper 
season. If you exclude to the present 
extent the masses of the people from the 
franchise, you are always running the 
risk of that which a very sagacious old 
Conservative statesman once said in the 
House of Commons. He said, ‘ I am 
afraid we shall have an ugly rush some 
day.’ Well, I want to avoid that ‘ugly 
rush.’ I would rather do the work tran¬ 
quilly, and do it gradually. 

Now, Gentlemen, all this will be done 
by people out of doors, and not by Par 
liament; and it would be folly for you 
to expect anybody in the House of 
Commons to take a single step in the 
direction of any reform until there is a 
great desire and disposition manifested for 
it out of doors. When that day comes, 
you will not want your champions in the 
Blouse of Commons. You have one of 
them (Mr. Bright) here; you could not 




1863. 


AMERICAN WAR. II. 


have a better. He and I began work at 
the same time, but I had the misfortune 
to be seven or eight years older. Now, 
he has a good Reform Bill in him yet. 
But I am not sure that I shall live to be 
able to afford you much help in the 
matter. 

Now, before I sit down, I will merely 
say, I congratulate you that the pros¬ 
pects and condition of this community 
are not so bad as they were last year, 
and I hope they may not be worse than 
they are now. The ordeal through which 
you have passed has been creditable to 
the employers and employed. Some 
men rise in the world by adversity: I 
think you have done so. You have 
shown you are able to bear yourselves 
manfully against a very cruel and sudden 
disaster. I do not think that what has 
occurred will be without its significance, 
even in a political point of view. I have 
heard in all directions that it is an 
unanswerable argument, so far as you 
are concerned in Lancashire, that the 
conduct, the bearing, the manliness, the 
fortitude, the self-respect with which you 
have borne the ordeal through which 
you have passed, commend you to the 
favourable consideration of those who 
have the power to enlarge the political 
franchise of this country. I think that 
what you are going through will have 
another salutary consequence. It is a 


3^9 

cruel suspense to which you are subjected, 
with cotton at 20 d. or 2s. a pound instead 
of at or 6 d. But be assured that it 
is working its own cure, and in a way 
to place the great industry of this country 
upon a much more secure foundation 
hereafter than it has been on before. 
The Cotton Supply Association in Man¬ 
chester—I am not at all connected with 
it, and therefore I speak as an outsider, 
but one that has been looking on—has, 
I think, rendered a service to this dis¬ 
trict and to humanity, which probably 
it will be hardly possible to trace through 
future ages, in the diffusion of cotton¬ 
seed throughout that portion of the world 
where cotton can be grown, and by 
making the natives acquainted with the 
use of the machinery necessary to clean 
it; and by that means, I have no doubt 
that, in addition to a supply of cotton 
that will sooner or later come from the 
valley of the Mississippi from African 
free labour—for I sincerely hope there 
will never be another cotton-seed planted 
in the ground, with a view to your future 
supply, by a slave in America—that 
from all those sources you are sure— 
morally certain—hereafter to be supplied 
with that essential article for your com¬ 
fort and prosperity, to a larger extent, 
and on better terms, and on a more 
secure basis than ever you have enjoyed 
before. 


24 



CHINA WAR. 


HOUSE OF COMMONS, FEBRUARY 26, 1857. 


[The words of the celebrated motion, whose introduction forms the subject of the follow¬ 
ing Speech, were:—‘ That this House has heard with concern of the conflicts which 
have occurred between the British and Chinese authorities on the Canton River; and, 
without expressing an opinion as to the extent to which the Government of China 
may have afforded this country cause of complaint respecting the non-fulfilment of the 
Treaty of 1842, this House considers that the papers which have been laid on the table 
fail to establish satisfactory grounds for the violent measures resorted to at Canton in 
the late affair of the Arrow, and that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into 
the state of our commercial relations with China.’ The motion was carried, on March 
3, by fourteen votes (263 to 249). Lord Palmerston dissolved Parliament, and gained 
a considerable accession to his followers by the expedient.] 


When I see to how large an extent the 
national conscience has been moved upon 
the question to which I am about to invite 
the attention of the House, judging from 
the manifestations of opinion given by 
those organs of opinion by which we 
learn what is passing in the minds of the 
people of this great nation, and believ¬ 
ing, from all the indications which we 
can have, that there is a large amount 
of sympathy felt for the subject of my 
Resolution, I can only regret that the 
task which I have to perform has not 
fallen into abler hands. 

But let me, therefore, stipulate at the 
outset that, whatever may be the decision 
of the House, it may be taken on the 
merits of the case, and that it shall not 
be allowed to suffer, to any degree, on 
account of its advocate. I beg distinctly 
to state that I have no personal or party 
object in view, and that I have no motive 
whatever but to arrive at a just decision 
on the important question which I am 
about to submit. Personally, I have 


every motive for avoiding to give pain 
to any one, and still more to visit with 
retribution the gentleman who now fills 
the situation of Plenipotentiary at Hong¬ 
kong, who, except his conduct is en¬ 
dorsed and adopted by the Government, 
I hold to be entirely responsible for the 
proceedings which I am about to bring 
under your notice. Sir John Bowring 
is an acquaintance of mine, of twenty 
years’ standing. I can have no vindictive 
feeling against him, and I have no desire 
for vengeance upon any person, I wish 
the Government had not adopted a hasty 
decision upon this subject, as we might 
then, without embarrassment, have come 
to a consideration of the case before us 
solely with the object of dealing with it 
on the principles of justice. 

Now, to begin at the beginning, it 
appears that on the 8th of October last, 
a vessel called a lorcha—which is a name 
derived from the Portuguese settlement 
at Macao, on the mouth of the Canton 
River, opposite to that where Hongkong 



FEB. 26, 1857. 


CHINA WAR. 


37 i 


lies, and which merely means that it is 
built after the European model, not that 
it is built in Europe—was boarded in 
the Canton River by Chinese officers. 
Twelve men were taken from it, on a 
charge which appears to be substantiated 
by the depositions of witnesses, that some 
of them had been concerned in an act 
of piracy. Twelve men were removed 
from, and two were left in charge of, the 
ship. Immediately upon the matter com¬ 
ing to the knowledge of Mr. Parkes, our 
Consul at Canton, he made a demand 
upon the Governor of Canton, claiming 
the return of these men, on the ground 
that, by the treaty between this country 
and China, any malfeasants found on 
board of a British vessel, and claimed by 
the Chinese authorities, should be de¬ 
manded from the Consul, and not taken 
by the Chinese officers out of a British 
ship. The answer given to Mr. Parkes 
—and the whole of the question turns 
upon this point—was, that the ship was 
not a British but a Chinese ship. The 
matter was referred to Sir John Bowring 
at Hongkong, which is about six hours’ 
steam passage from Canton. On the 
10th, that is, two days after, nine of these 
men were returned to Mr. Parkes. Three 
others, against whom grave suspicion ex¬ 
isted, were retained, in order that their 
case might be further inquired into. And 
thus the matter remained, when Sir John 
Bowring determined that unless, within 
forty-eight hours, the whole of the men 
were returned in a formal and specified 
manner, and an apology offered for the 
act of the Chinese officers, and a pledge 
given that no such act should be com¬ 
mitted in future, naval operations should 
be commenced against the Chinese. 
On the 22nd of October the whole of 
the men were returned; and a letter was 
sent, in which Yeh, the Chinese Go¬ 
vernor of the province, stated that the 
ship was not a British ship, that the 
English had really no concern in it, 
but that he returned the men at the 
instance of the Consul. That letter was 
accompanied by a promise that, in future, 
great care should be taken that British 
ships should never be visited improperly 


by Chinese officers. On the 23rd—-that 
that is to say, the day after—operations 
were commenced against the Barrier 
Forts on the Canton River. From the 
23rd of October to the 13th of November, 
these naval and military operations were 
continuous. The Barrier Forts, the Bogue 
Forts, the Blenheim Forts, and the Dutch 
Folly Forts, and twenty-three Chinese 
junks, were all taken or destroyed. 
The suburbs of Canton were pulled, 
burnt, or battered down, that the ships 
might fire upon the walls of the town ; 
and bear in mind that these suburbs 
contain a population entirely dependent 
upon the foreign trade, and were our 
only friends in the neighbourhood of that 
city. These operations continued until 
the 13th of November; the Governor’s 
house in the city was shelled, and shells 
were thrown at a range of 2,000 yards that 
they might reach the quarter in which 
the various Government officers resided 
at the other side of the town. These 
things are set forth in the pathetic appeals 
made by the inhabitants, by repeated 
communications from the Governor, and 
by the statements of deputations, includ¬ 
ing some men of world-wide reputation, 
such as the Howquas and others engaged 
in trade. This was the state of things 
up to the date of the last advices. 

I lay these things before the House 
as the basis for our investigation, not 
with the view of appealing to your 
humanity, not with the view of exciting 
your feelings, but that we may know that 
we are at war with China, and that great 
devastation and destruction of property 
have occurred. What I ask is, that we 
shall inquire who were the authors of 
this war, and why it was commenced ? 
and that I ask, not in the interest of the 
Chinese, but for the defence of our own 
honour. I ask you to consider this case 
precisely as if you were dealing with a 
strong Power, instead of a weak one. 
I confess I have seen with humiliation 
the tendency in this country to pursue 
two courses of policy—one towards the 
strong, and the other towards the weak. 
Now, if I know anything of my coun¬ 
trymen, or anything of this House of 




372 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


Commons, that is not the natural quality 
of Englishmen. It never was our ancient 
reputation. We have had the character 
of being sometimes a little arrogant, a 
little overbearing, and of having a tend¬ 
ency to pick a quarrel; but we never 
yet acquired the character of being bullies 
to the weak and cowards to the strong. 
Let us consider this case precisely as if 
we were dealing with America instead 
of China. We have a treaty with China, 
which, in our international relations with 
that country, puts us on a footing of 
perfect equality. It is not one of the 
old conventions, such as existed between 
Turkey and the other European States, 
in which certain concessions were made 
without binding clauses on both sides. 
Our treaty with China binds us to a 
reciprocal policy, just as our treaty with 
America does ; and what I say is, let 
us, in our dealings with that country, 
observe towards them that justice which 
we observe towards the United States, 
or France, or Russia. 

I ask, what are the grounds of this 
devastation and warfare which are now 
being carried on in the Canton River ? 
Our Plenipotentiary in China alleges 
that a violation of our treaty rights has 
taken place in regard to this vessel, the 
Arrow. In the first place, I think that 
is a question which might have been 
referred home, before resortingto extreme 
measures. In the next place, I ask, 
what is the case, as a question of inter¬ 
national law ? I will take the opinion 
of one of the highest legal authorities 
of the country; for I should, after the 
statement which I heard made by Lord 
Lyndhurst in another place on Tuesday 
evening, think myself very presumptuous 
if I were to detain you by any statement 
of my opinions. I heard Lord Lyndhurst 
declare that, with reference to this case 
of the Arrmv, the Chinese Governor is 
right; and I heard him say that, in 
giving his opinion, he could not do better 
than use the very words used by the 
Chinese Governor—that this vessel, the 
Arrow, is not in any respect a British 
vessel. 

But we have other grounds of testing 


the legality of this matter. When Mr. 
Parkes communicated the fact of this 
visit to the lorcha to Sir John Bowring, 
he received an answer; and what was 
that answer? Sir John Bowring, being 
then within six hours’steam fromCanton, 
receives the letter written by Mr. Parkes 
on the 10th, and on the nth he writes 
a letter, in which he says :— 

' It appears, on examination, that the 
Arrow had no right to hoist the British 
flag ; the licence to do so expired on the 
27th of September, from which period she 
has not been entitled to protection. You 
will send back the register, to be delivered 
to the Colonial-office. 1 

And on the following day, when not 
called upon to refer to the subject, he 
says :— 

1 I will consider the re-granting the 
register of the Arrow, if applied for ; but 
there can be no doubt that, after the expiry 
of the licence, protection could not be 
legally granted. 

Now, I might stop here. Here is the 
whole case. But what course did Sir 
John Bowring recommend Mr. Parkes 
to take under these circumstances ? I 
ask you to consider the matter as though 
you were dealing with another Power, 
If you please, we will suppose that, 
instead of being at Hongkong dealing 
with Canton, we are at Washington 
dealing with Charleston. Not long ago, 
a law was passed in South Carolina 
which went very much against the most 
cherished predilections of this country, 
by requiring that when a coloured citizen 
of this country—as much an Englishman 
as you or I—arrived at Charleston, he 
should be taken out of the English ship, 
put into gaol; and kept in custody there 
until the ship was ready to sail. Now, 
if there could be one measure more 
calculated than another to wound our 
susceptibilities as a nation, it was that. 
What did our Consul at Charleston do? 
Did he send for Her Majesty’s ships of 
war, and bombard the Governor’s resid¬ 
ence ? No ; he sent to Washington, and 
informed our Minister of the matter. 
The Minister went to the Secretary for 



CHINA WAR. 


373 


1857. 

Foreign Affairs, and received an explan¬ 
ation, which amounted to nothing else 
than this,—‘We are in a difficulty, and 
you must have patience with us.’ And 
we had patience, and did not resort to 
force. 

Now, had this case which we are 
considering occurred in America, what 
would have been the course of our 
Ambassador at Washington when he 
received the letter of our Consul at 
Charleston, saying that he had demanded 
reparation from the American authorities 
there ? When he referred to the docu¬ 
ments which he had in his archives, 
and found that, owing to the lapse of 
time, the instrument upon which the 
Consul had proceeded had become void, 
and therefore he had no legal standing- 
ground as against the American Govern¬ 
ment—which was precisely the case, as 
admitted in this instance, the licence 
having expired fourteen days before—he 
would have written back to the Consul, 
saying, ‘ You have been too precipitate. 
The captain of the ship, by neglecting 
to renew his licence, has placed himself 
in an illegal position. You have been 
very rash in demanding redress from the 
Governor of South Carolina. Make 
your apology as soon as you can, and 
get out of this business.’ What was 
the conduct of Sir John Bowring? After 
telling Mr. Parkes that the licence had 
expired, and that the Arrow had no right 
to hoist the British flag, he added, 

‘ But the Chinese have no knowledge of 
its expiration.’ 

When I read that letter in the country, 
it was in the Times newspaper, I would 
not believe its fidelity, but sent to Lon¬ 
don for a copy of the Gazette, in order 
that I might read the document in the 
original. Always wishing to save the 
character of an absent man, and believ¬ 
ing that that must have been penned in 
a moment of hallucination, I say that it 
is the most flagitious public document 
that I ever saw. The statement itself 
being published, reveals a state of mind 
which warrants one in saying, and com¬ 
pels one to say, that the statement is 
false; because there is an avowal of 


falsehood, and a disposition to profit by 
it. I have frequently complained of the 
number of public documents which are 
laid before us in a mutilated shape ; I 
always regard with suspicion any letters 
which are headed ‘ Extract; ’ but what 
was the right hon. Gentleman about who 
had the revising of these documents ? 
Why did he not leave out that part of 
the letter ? For the credit of the country, 
and his own credit, I wish he had. At 
all events, let it be understood that, if 
we follow out the policy adopted by Sir 
John Bowring upon no better foundation 
than this, we take upon ourselves the 
responsibilities of his acts, and share the 
guilt of that statement. 

Now, connected with this transaction 
there are questions as to whether, when 
the Arrmu was boarded, she had her 
colours flying, and that her English 
master was on board. After what we 
have heard, I think all these questions 
secondary ; but I am by no means sa¬ 
tisfied that we stand any better in regard 
to them than in regard to that to which 
I have just referred. Hon. Gentlemen 
who have read the correspondence will 
have observed that in the first letter 
written on this subject by Consul Parkes, 
he says he has proof in his possession 
showing, beyond the possibility of doubt, 
that when the vessel was boarded there 
was a British captain on board, that he 
remonstrated against the acts of the 
Chinese, and that the British flag was 
also flying at the time. Now, the fact 
turns out afterwards that the captain, in 
his own declaration, states that he was 
not on board the vessel; that he was 
taking.his breakfast with another captain 
in another vessel. That, however, I 
regard as altogether of secondary im¬ 
portance. 

But there is another illegality in this 
matter. Here are two illegalities which 
you have to contend with. First, the 
clear doctrine of constitutional law, laid 
down by Lord Lyndhurst, that you can¬ 
not give rights to a Chinese shipowner, 
as against his own Government. An un¬ 
learned man like myself, and the Chi¬ 
nese Governor Yeh, seem instinctively 




374 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


to have come to the same conclusion. 
I cannot, for the life of me, see how 
it is possible that we can invest our¬ 
selves with the power, at Hongkong, 
of annexing the whole Chinese mercan¬ 
tile marine,—of protecting it against its 
own Government, and absolving Chinese 
subjects from their natural allegiance. 
But, besides the illegality admitted by 
Sir John Bowring, there is another : 
Even admitting that the lorcha’s register 
was all in order, and that the licence 
had been paid up, still it is declared 
authoritatively, and is beyond a doubt, 
that the Hongkong Government had no 
power to violate the statute laws of this 
country by giving any such licence. 
The Hongkong Legislature cannot act 
in contravention of the fundamental 
principle of our Navigation Act ; and 
therefore the whole register and licence 
were mere waste paper, even if they 
were in order. 

Thus you have a threefold illegality 
to struggle against. The noble Lord 
(Palmerston), I see, is taking a note. I 
wish him to answer one thing that was 
said by his colleague in another place. 
Lord Clarendon, alluding to this point, 
used a very fallacious argument. He 
said, a Hongkong register could not give 
imperial rights to a ship, but could give 
only British protection to aship in China. 
That is the very place where we say it 
cannot give protection. It can give pro¬ 
tection anywhere else but there. How 
can the proceedings of the Hongkong 
Government, irrespective of the Legis¬ 
lature of this country, have any force in 
China ? It is only through the instru¬ 
mentality of an Act of Parliament here 
that the Hongkong Legislature exists at 
all ; and none of its acts are binding in 
China, or anywhere, in fact, without the 
confirmation of this country. 

I do not wish to convert this into a 
legal debate, andit would be presumption 
in me to say another word on this part 
of the question. The Duke of Argyle, 
indeed, finding himself beaten on the 
law of the case, says, ‘ Do not argue 
this case on low, legal, and technical 
grounds. You must try it on broad, 


general grounds.’ I leave it to other 
Members of this House to vindicate the 
legal profession, which lies at the found¬ 
ation of all civilisation, from the un¬ 
worthy aspersions thus inferentially cast 
upon it. 

Assuming, then, that the whole thing 
was illegal on our part—and this cannot 
be denied, for no lawyer with a reputa¬ 
tion at stake, and who is not on the 
Treasury-bench, will venture to assert a 
doctrine contrary to that laid down by 
Lord Lyndhurst — I pass to another 
branch of the question, with which I 
can more appropriately deal. It may 
be true, that although the Chinese did 
not violate the law, still they might have 
had the intention to insult us. It is 
alleged, that in boarding the Arrow, the 
Chinese authorities did it premeditatedly, 
in order to insult us. Having the law 
on their side, they yet might have en¬ 
forced it with that view. I say that is 
quite a distinct issue ;—but let us see 
what grounds there are for this assertion. 
In the first place, without travelling out 
of the question, I may remind you of 
the exceptional character of the trade 
carried on by European vessels on the 
coast of China. We all know that a great 
deal of irregular trade exists on that coast. 
Do you suppose it a very extraordinary 
thing that the Chinese authorities should 
board a vessel of European build, and 
carrying the British flag ? In the corre¬ 
spondence relating to the registration of 
colonial vessels at Hongkong, Sir John 
Bowring gives a case in which two 
vessels entitled to bear our flag were 
seized by the Chinese authorities be¬ 
cause they had cargoes of salt. Being 
seized under the Treaty, their contents 
were liable to confiscation ; but the 
Chinese Government had no right to 
retain the vessels themselves. The 
Chinese having taken the vessels to 
empty them, having dismantled them, 
and having kept them too long, our 
agents made a demand for their return, 
and sent a ship-of-war’s cutter to bring 
them away. This might have been all 
very regular ; but it only leads to the 
inference that the Chinese have occasion 



CHINA WAR. 


375 


1857- 

to visit our vessels without necessarily 
intending to insult us. 

I hold in my hand a communication 
from an American gentleman, who left 
Canton on the 16th of last November, 
and was one of those who entered within 
the walls of that town in the rear of our 
forces. His name, which I am at liberty 
to mention, is Cook ; he lives at 
Whampoa, where he has been for four 
years, holding the position of United 
States Marshal, and therefore having 
jurisdiction over the flag of his own 
country. In course of conversation, Mr 
Cook, in answer to my inquiries, stated I 
many cases in which British ships, with 
the British flag, were engaged in smug¬ 
gling transactions ; and he mentioned 
one in particular, of so very glaring a 
nature, that I asked him to put it on 
paper, in order that I might read it 
publicly. I give this as an example of 
what has been going on in the neigh¬ 
bourhood of Canton, because it affords 
a valid plea for what the Chinese author¬ 
ities have done in this case of the lorcha. 
Mr. Cook, in his letter, written to-day, 
says :— 

' In answer to your query, whether I have 
any objections to the use of my name re¬ 
garding our conversation on China matters, 

I say, most certainly not ; and I will give 
you the facts in regard to the seizure of the 
lorchas as nearly as possible, from memory, 
having no data to refer to. During the 
summer of 1855, in June or July, there lay 
near our chop, which is close to Her Brit¬ 
annic Majesty’s Vice-Consulate at Wham¬ 
poa, from ten to fifteen lorchas, engaged 
in smuggling salt, and eight or ten of this 
number hoisted British flags during the 
day, the salt being discharged at night. 
The number of vessels was so large at that 
time, in consequence of the Mandarin boats 
having been sent above Canton to repulse 
the rebels. But the Government could not 
keep ignorant of so bold a matter long, and 
twelve or fifteen Mandarin boats, each 
containing upwards of sixty men, made 
their appearance early in the morning, and 
captured the whole fleet, five or six of which 
had British flags flying at the time, the 
Europeans (generally a captain) as well as 
the Chinese jumping overboard and swim¬ 
ming to the different vessels for safety, | 


several of whom came on board of our 
vessel. The Mandarin force took the cap¬ 
tured fleet to Canton, and the parties having 
the right to fly the flag subsequently claimed 
their vessels, which were eventually re¬ 
turned, and the remainder retained by the 
Government. This is by no means an 
isolated case as regards the illegal use of 
the flag, and you have only to refer to the 
Hongkong papers to find plenty of cases 
where the right was questioned to grant 
the flag, as it had been done by the Hong¬ 
kong authorities.’ 

In justice to Mr. Cook, I must say— 
and without this proviso he would, I am 
sure, feel that I had been guilty of a 
breach of faith—that he is as completely 
anti-Chinese as anybody I ever met. H e 
wishes every success to every one who 
will go and attack the Chinese for the 
purpose of making them more American 
and more European in their notions, and 
he would not be supposed to say a word 
to save them from any horrors that you 
may inflict upon them. Yet he candidly 
tells me, ‘You have chosen a quarrel 
which is the most unlucky that you could 
possibly have stumbled into, for ’ (he 
adds) ‘ you have not a leg to stand upon 
in the affair of the Arrow' I confess I 
listened with some humiliation to what 
he said of the doings of ships carrying 
our flags; and when so much is asserted 
about our flag being insulted, I cannot 
help feeling that it is such transactions 
as these which dishonour and insult our 
flag. Mr. Cook, who, as the American 
Marshal, has control over the American 
flag, also said to me, in a very significant 
tone, ‘ I don’t allow any such doings as 
these under our stars and stripes.’ 

In what position do we place the 
Chinese authorities by our licences ? I 
will tell you, on the same authority. A 
Chinese goes to Hongkong, and by means 
of some mystification which they have 
adopted there—such as becoming the 
tenant of Crown lands, or becoming a 
partner with somebody else who is—for), 
you will observe, the Chinese are infin¬ 
itely clever in matters of partnership, 
and are exceedingly prone to limited 
liability—a Chinese subject, I say, goes 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


376 

to Hongkong, obtains an English ship, 
and then gets an Englishman for a cap¬ 
tain. What sort of man is this captain ? 
Why, any man with a round hat and a 
European coat on will do. He is put 
on board, and called the nominal captain. 
The ship is owned by a Chinese; but 
they keep this man on board, who is 
generally some loose fish—some stray 
person, or runaway apprentice ; for in 
this case you have Mr. Kennedy and 
another witness both stating their ages at 
not above twenty-one. When we hear 
of young men of twenty-one being placed 
in positions of this sort, I think we may 
draw a very natural inference. In fact, 
they are, I am told, nearly always run¬ 
away apprentices or idle young seamen. 
They have plenty of grog to drink, and 
nothing else to do but to drink it, for 
they are not expected to take any share 
whatever in the working of the ship. 

That is the process which is going on 
in the Chinese waters, and it is most dis¬ 
honourable, I contend, to us as a nation, 
to permit it. One of the consequences 
which I should expect from the appoint¬ 
ment of a Committee would be a strict 
inquiry into the trade carried on with 
China, and an endeavour to devise some 
scheme to put a stop to this disgraceful 
system of obtaining licences. Hon. 
Gentlemen will be able now to see, from 
the letter which I have read, the advan¬ 
tages of having one of these licences. A 
dozen smuggling vessels are seized; half 
of them, having a colonial register, are 
entitled to carry the British flag, because 
they have paid the licences and are re¬ 
gistered. The Chinese authorities take 
out their cargoes, but are obliged to return 
the vessels. As to the other half of the 
vessels, they are seized and confiscated 
with their cargoes, and the smugglers 
also are kept. So that a smuggler who 
has a register can carry on his trade with 
nothing to fear, except the occasional loss 
of his cargo. This, then, is a reason why 
we ought to be tolerant to the Chinese, 
and not assume, as a matter of course, 
that they intended to insult us because 
they boarded this lorcha, even though 
the British flag might be flying at the 
time. 


I must beg the House to remember 
who the correspondents were. On the 
one side, you have Consul Parkes, a 
gentleman of considerable ability, no 
doubt, and a good linguist (I believe 
some of us saw him not long ago, when 
he came over with the Siamese Treaty), 
but still a young man, without experi¬ 
ence, and without having gone through 
the gradations of civil employment cal¬ 
culated to give him that moderation, 
prudence, and discretion which he may 
one day possess; and, on the other side, 
the Governor of a province which, ac¬ 
cording to Mr. Montgomery Martin’s 
book, contains 20,000,000 inhabitants, 
—a Cabinet Minister, and one who has 
no doubt gone through all the grades of 
civil employment. Now, bear these 
facts in mind, and I ask any man who 
has read this correspondence, does it 
bear on the face of it the slightest inti¬ 
mation that the Chinese Governor wish¬ 
ed to insult the British authority? Must 
it not be admitted—as was said by Lord 
Derby, in that brilliant and admirable 
speech of his—that, ‘ on the one side, 
there were courtesy, forbearance, and 
temper, while on the other there were 
arrogance and presumption ?’ 

The correspondence loses half its 
effect, if we do not bear in mind the 
dates and the circumstances under which 
it was written. While it was being 
carried on, every day witnessed the de¬ 
molition of some fort, or the burning of 
some buildings; and yet here, on the 
12th of November, a fortnight after his 
own house had been shelled and entered 
by a hostile force—(I have no doubt 
that the officers and men who performed 
their duty conducted themselves with 
all moderation, but I am informed that 
they were followed by a rabble, who 
destroyed a great deal of valuable pro¬ 
perty) — Commissioner Yeh wnites to 
Sir John Bowring in this mild and con¬ 
ciliatory tone :— 

‘ Again, the twelve men seized were all 
taken back by Hew, assistant magistrate 
of Nanhae, on the 22nd ult.; but Consul 
Parkes declined to receive either them or 
a despatch sent with them from me. The 



1857 - 

letter under acknowledgment says that, 
had the authorities been accessible to the 
Consul, the affair might have been dis¬ 
posed of in a single interview. The assist¬ 
ant magistrate, Hew, was sent twice with 
the men to be surrendered; it is through 
him that (foreign) correspondence with me 
is always transmitted. Now, the assistant 
magistrate is a commissioned officer of the 
Chinese Empire. Heretofore any foreign 
business that has had to be transacted by 
deputy has been transacted by officers 
similarly deputed, and the present was a 
case of all others requiring common con¬ 
ference ; but Consul Parkes had made up 
his mind not to consent to what was pro¬ 
posed. On a subsequent occasion, I sent 
Tseang, Prefect of Lay-chow-foo, to the 
foreign factories, to consider what steps 
should be taken; but the Consul now 
insisted on something more than (the rendi¬ 
tion of) the men captured on board the 
lorcha. There being in all this no inac¬ 
cessibility on the part of Chinese officials, 
what was there to make an immediate ad¬ 
justment impracticable ? Yet on the 23rd, 
24th, and 25th ult., the different forts of 
the city were occupied or destroyed ; and 
from the 27th ult. to the 5th inst. a cannon¬ 
ade was kept up, by which numberless 
dwelling-houses in the new and old city 
were consumed with considerable loss of 
life. I still forbore, remembering how 
many years you had been at peace with 
us; but the people were now gnashing 
their teeth with rage at the terrible suffer¬ 
ing to which they had been subjected. 
Imagine it, that the simple fact being that 
a seizure was made by the Chinese Govern¬ 
ment of Chinese offenders, whom it was a 
duty to seize, it is pretended that the 
British ensign was hauled down ; and this 
is followed up by a movement of troops 
and a cannonade to the infliction of terrible 
suffering on the people. I must beg your 
Excellency to pass an opinion on such a 
state of things.’ 

Does not this letter prove that the 
man who wrote it under such harrowing 
circumstances had, above all things, a 
desire to conciliate and smooth down 
the differences which existed ? Nothing 
is more striking in this correspondence 
than the manner in which Commissioner 
Yeh constantly harps upon the same 
string—that the Arrow was not a British 
vessel. I have counted in the papers 


577 

no less than eight letters in which that 
declaration is reiterated in different 
forms to Consul Parkes, to Sir John 
Bowring, to Admiral Seymour, and, I 
believe, even to the American repre¬ 
sentative. There are instances in which 
his language is as terse, logical, and 
argumentative as if it had been Lord 
Lyndhurst himself who spoke. Here is 
an example—and I read this extract, 
because it is the very dictum laid down 
by Lord Lyndhurst the other night. 
Writing to Sir John Bowring on the 
21st of October, Yeh says,—‘ The whole 
question amounts to this—a lorcha built 
by a Chinese purchased a British flag; 
that did not make her a British vessel. ’ 
I venture to say that Westminster Hall, 
with the Court of Chancery to boot, 
could not frame a decision more terse 
and more comprehensive than that. It 
is the whole law of the case. A Chinese, 
by buying a British flag, cannot make a 
Chinese vessel a British vessel. And it 
is a most remarkable thing, that during 
the whole of this discussion our author¬ 
ities never once attempted to answer this 
argument. What is still more remark¬ 
able, Lord Cranworth talked a good deal 
about something else the other night, 
but he never attempted to answer it. I 
have no doubt we shall hear the Attor¬ 
ney-General talk a good deal about some¬ 
thing else to-night. But I venture to say 
that we shall not hear any man, with a 
character to lose as a lawyer, much less 
a man who aspires one day to sit on the 
woolsack, declare in express language 
that the dictum of Commissioner Yeh is 
unsound in law. Here is another in¬ 
stance. Yeh writes to our Plenipoten¬ 
tiary on the 17th of November:— 

‘ I have always understood foreign flags 
to be each one peculiar to a nation, they 
are never made so little of as even to be 
lent; how, then, could a foreign nation do 
anything so irregular as to sell its flag to 
China ?' 

Observe the acute reasoning of this man. 
He puts the question at once upon its 
real footing—‘ You have not made a 
Chinese vessel a British vessel; you have 


CHINA WAR. 





FEB. 26, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


378 

only sold your flag to a Chinese vessel.’ 
He then goes on :— 

' This appears to your Excellency a pro¬ 
ceeding in accordance with law ; all I can 
say is, that 1 am not aware that foreign 
nations have any such law. As I have said 
before, therefore, had the flag belonged 
bond fide to a British merchant-vessel, it 
would have been proper to follow some 
other course than the one pursued ; but 
the fact being, that a Chinese had fraud¬ 
ulently assumed the flag, why should Mr. 
Consul Parkes have put himself forward 
as his advocate ? Simply because he 
wanted a pretext for making trouble.' 

Upon my honour, I believe the whole 
matter is contained in these last words. 
I believe there was a preconceived de¬ 
sign to pick a quarrel, and I very much 
suspect that there has been more or less 
encouragement forwarded from head 
quarters. 

I might read numberless passages from 
the correspondence, but as the attention 
of hon. Gentlemen has already been 
called to them by the discussion which 
has occurred in another place, it is un¬ 
necessary for me to trouble the House 
with any lengthy quotations. I may say, 
however, that all the communications on 
the part of the Chinese authorities mani¬ 
fest a forbearance, a temper, and a desire 
to conciliate, which should put to the 
blush any man who asserts that they 
intended to insult the British representa¬ 
tives. I observe that in another place 
Lord Clarendon did not content himself 
with referring to recent transactions, but 
he said that for a long time past the 
Chinese Government and authorities have 
been encroaching upon the rights of 
foreigners, and have shown a disposition 
to infringe the Articles of the Treaty. I 
can only say, that if such conduct has 
been pursued by the Chinese authorities, 
it was the duty of her Majesty’s Govern¬ 
ment to take earlier steps to check their 
proceedings. Why did the Government 
allow us to drift into a quarrel, in which 
our cause is bad, if for years sufficient 
grounds have existed for their interfer¬ 
ence? If, as Lord Clarendon tells us, 
these wrongs have been inflicted upon 


English, French, and Americans, why, 
in the name of common sense, did not 
that noble Lord, or the Prime Minister, 
or some one in authority, say to France 
and to the United States, ‘ We are joint 
parties to the Treaty with China; our 
rights are invaded; the terms of tht 
Treaty are not fairlyfulfilled; let us make 
joint representations on the subject a( 
Pekin ? ’ That would have been a states¬ 
manlike mode of proceeding ; but why 
did the Government allow these infrac¬ 
tions of the Treaty to go on until your 
representatives have stumbled into a quar¬ 
rel, and commenced a war, for which, in 
the opinion of your best lawyers, there 
is no legal grounds ? I deny that the 
assumption of Lord Clarendon is true. 
I say, that if you refer to the blue-books 
that have been laid upon the table since 
1842, you will find most striking proofs 
that the Chinese authorities, in every 
part of the empire to which we have ac¬ 
cess, have manifested the most consistent 
and earnest desire to carry out the pro¬ 
visions of the Treaty. 

I will make one remark with reference 
to the correspondence recently laid be¬ 
fore us. Why was this blue-book laid 
upon the table on the very morning of 
the day on which Lord Derby was to 
call attention to the subject, and why 
was a paper presented in the name ol 
the Sovereign caricatured by being term¬ 
ed ‘ Correspondence respecting Insults 
in China?’ My experience in these 
matters almost tempts me to say that 
this blue-book was laid upon the table 
on that morning for the very purpose of 
mystifying us. Many hon. Members— 
plain, simple-minded country gentlemen 
—who have not so voracious an appetite 
for blue-books as I have, would say, 
‘ Mercy on us ! Here is a book of 225 
pages, all about the insults we have suf¬ 
fered in China. It’s high time that 
Lord Clarendon should interfere for the 
protection of British interests, and it’s 
quite right to go to war on the subject, 
if necessary.’ I have read the blue-book 
through ; and what is it ? It consists of 
garbled extracts from correspondence 
extending from the year 1842 to the year 



CHINA WAR 


379 


1857 - 

1856. What do these extracts relate to? 
A few street riots, a few village rows. 
An Englishman straying out of bounds 
to shoot, is hooted back by the peasants. 
An Englishman goes out shooting, shoots 
a boy and blinds him. The Consul 
awards the boy 200 dollars to buy a 
piece of land. That is put down as an 
‘ insult in China.’ When I commenced 
reading the book, I thought—‘Here is 
the record (garbled, as I will afterwards 
show you) of all the disputes and mis¬ 
understandings we have had with China 
since we concluded the Treaty which 
gave us access to the five ports of that 
empire.’ 

Now, I will ask the House to turn 
their attention to the position occupied 
by this country during the same time 
with regard to the other great Powers 
of the civilized world. What have been 
your relations with the United States 
during that period ? Three times you 
have been on the verge of war on the 
subjects of boundary disputes, enlist¬ 
ment disputes, and fishery disputes. I 
have seen a large fleet at Spithead re¬ 
viewed by the Queen, well knowing at 
the time its significance — that it was 
meant to back the representations we 
were making to those who are our co¬ 
religionists, and, I may almost say, our 
countrymen. Then what has been our 
position with regard to France? Twicewe 
have debated the measures to be adopted 
in order to guard against the possible de¬ 
scent of the French upon our shores. We 
have called out our militia, and we have 
increased our fleet, for fear of violent pro¬ 
ceedings on the part of France. What 
have been the relations existing between 
England and Russia ? Those Powers 
have engaged in the most gigantic duel 
ever fought; they have waged the most 
bloody and costly war—for the time of 
its duration—that ever occurred—a war 
in which four or five empires were in¬ 
volved. I may be told that China is 
now plunged into revolution ; but within 
the last sixteen years, has not all Europe 
been plunged into revolution? Talk of 
insults to England ! Were not all the 
English workmen in France driven from 


the railroads in that country? If such a 
thing happened in a country whose man¬ 
ners, habits, and religion are similar to 
our own, ought we not, in dealing with 
an empire to which we have so recently 
gained admission, and which has had so 
little contact with the Western world, 
to have exhibited more tolerance and 
moderation ? Is it not an insult to this 
House to bring down such a blue-book 
as that upon the table, in order to make 
up a case for Lord Clarendon, on the 
ground that we have had constant rea¬ 
sons to complain of the breach of our 
Treaty with China ? I have said I 
would show the House that the extracts 
contained in this book are not fairly given. 
Many of these extracts are collected 
from returns which were laid before the 
House long ago, and I will trouble the 
House with some extracts from tile 
original papers. 

Now, here is a letter from Sir John 
Davis, the British Plenipotentiary, ad¬ 
dressed to Lord Palmerston, and dated 
‘ Plongkong, Feb. 15, 1847,’ which, if it 
be in the blue-book before us, I have not 
been able to find :— 

‘My Lord,— I deemed it right, on the 
approach of the Chinese year, when Canton 
is crowded with idle persons, to address 
the enclosed official despatch, on the 2nd 
instant, to Captain Talbot, not that I have 
any expectation of the occurrence of acts 
of violence and disorder, if our own people 
will only behave with common abstinence. 

1 The following extract of a letter from 
Major-General D’Aguilar, now at Canton, 
will tend to corroborate all that Rear-Ad¬ 
miral Sir Thomas Cochrane, myself, and 
the Consul, have had occasion to report 
upon this subject ; and we have none of 
us any motives for seeking popularity by 
appealing to passion rather than reason :— 

‘“I have been a great deal on the river, 
and constantly in the streets about the 
factories, and extended some of my walks 
close to the city gates, and have never met 
with anything but courtesy and civility. I 
believe a great deal—I may say everything 
-—depends upon ourselves, and that a kind 
manner and a bearing free from offence 
is the best security against all approach to 
violence and insult.” ' 

Before I read a letter in a kindred 





3 8 ° 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


spirit from Admiral Cochrane, I may 
observe, that I have sometimes been 
accused of entertaining feelings hostile 
to the military and naval services. I 
have many excellent and brave friends 
in both services, and, although I am a 
friend to peace, yet in a case of veracity 
I would take the word of a soldier or a 
sailor rather than that of any one else. 
This letter is dated ‘ Her Majesty’s 
ship Agincourt, Hongkong, Nov. 20, 
1846:’— 

' My dear Governor, —In pursuance of the 
intention I communicated to you, of visit¬ 
ing Canton for the purpose of seeing, before 
my departure for England, the changes 
that may have occurred in the four years 
that have elapsed since I was last there, as 
well as to ascertain how far any just cause 
existed for the apprehensions of the British 
merchants residing at Canton, or for a ship 
of war being constantly stationed off the 
factory gardens, to her imminent peril, were 
any real hostilities to take place, I went 
there from hence on Sunday and on Mon¬ 
day, landing in plain clothes accompa¬ 
nied by my flag-lieutenant and Captain 
M'Dougal. I walked for full six hours in 
in every part of the town where I thought 
it likely to meet a crowd, finding myself, 
without intending it, close to the dreaded 
city gate, within seven or eight doors of 
which I passed some time in a shop, mak¬ 
ing purchases, the doors surrounded as 
usual by lookers-on from the crowded street 
that leads to the gate, of whom not a single 
individual showed the slightest incivility. 
On the contrary, some in the most friendly 
and respectful manner examined the tex¬ 
ture of my coat as well as my gloves, the 
latter being, asyouknow, acuriosity to them. 
In short, I sought every position where 
public feeling was likely to be exhibited, 
and blinked none; and I can positively 
declare that I, and those with me, passed 
through the streets with as much free¬ 
dom and as little inconvenience as in any 
street in London, and met with precisely 
the same reception I have doneat Shanghai 
or Ningpo, and if any circumstance had 
been required to confirm the opinion I 
have more than once expressed—namely, 
that the Chinese will never be the aggressors 
—the visit of Monday would fully do so; 
and if I required further proof of the bully¬ 
ing disposition of my own countrymen 
among foreigners in the first instance, and 


their unreasonable expectations as to antici¬ 
pated protection afterwards, it will be found 
in what has already passed, and in the 
statements made to you by the Consul on 
the first recall of the Nemesis, and another 
by her commander on her arrival here, that, 
on being ordered down the river after lying 
three months without moving from the 
factory gardens, the merchants made loud 
complaints, and I expected to have heard 
that she had been followed by a petition for 
her return. If the merchants would believe 
that their best, and by far most efficient, 
protection is to be found in their own cir¬ 
cumspect conduct in treating the people 
with urbanity and goodwill, and avoiding 
rather than seeking sources of conflict, I 
feel persuaded that they will soon practi¬ 
cally discover in these measures more per¬ 
suasive advocates with the Chinese than in 
all the force I could bring against them.’ 

I do not know whether my right hon. 
Friend (Mr. Labouchere) can find that 
letter in the blue-book, but I have not been 
able to find it. The correspondence ap¬ 
pears to me to have been culled to find 
some letters of a very different character. 

I will only trouble the House with 
one other letter. It is a letter by Sir 
John Davis, written in 1846. You had 
riots at Canton afterwards, and great 
destruction of property. The letter is 
dated the 12th of November, 1846, and 
Sir John Davis, writing to Lord Palmer¬ 
ston, says:— 

‘ I am not the first who has been com¬ 
pelled to remark, that it is more difficult to 
deal with our own countrymen at Canton 
than with the Chinese Government; and I 
offer the last proof of this in the fact, that 
it has cost me infinitely more trouble to 
make Mr. Compton pay a fine of 200 dol¬ 
lars, than to obtain compensation to our 
merchants of 46,000 dollars for losses which 
occurred partly fromtheirown misconduct.' 

I did not find that letter in the blue-book. 
Sir John Davis, also writing to Lord 
Palmerston, on the 26 th of January, 1847, 
says :— 

‘ I may add, that the subjects of every 
other civilised Government get on more 
quietly with the Chinese, and clamour less 
for protection than our own.’ 

Lord Clarendon gave great prominence 
to the case of the merchants 



CHINA WAR. 


1857- 

Now, it is probable that I am the 
only man who would say on this subject 
what I am about to say, without being 
misunderstood. No one will doubt my 
mercantile tendencies. All my sym¬ 
pathies are with the mercantile classes, 
and my public life has been passed 
in enlarging the sphere of their honour¬ 
able and beneficial employment. Lord 
Clarendon called attention to the Eng¬ 
lish merchants in China, and said, they 
were all in favour of the violent pro¬ 
ceedings which have been carried on 
in Canton. In one of these papers— 
which I need not read to you—I find a 
communication on that subject, written 
in 1847, by Sir George Bonham, who 
says, there are a great many young 
men there, some of them engaged as 
junior partners and clerks at Canton, 
who have not a large stake at issue, and 
who are naturally eager to have access 
to the country, and to compel the 
Chinese to break down the barriers to 
their excursions; but that, on consulting 
the older and more experienced men, 
he did not find that they were in favour 
of hostile proceedings, although he 
admitted they were in a minority. 
I sympathise with the position of the 
English merchants at Canton. It is not 
a pleasant thing to live on the borders 
of a river, and not to have a distance of 
two miles for exercise. At all events it 
would not suit me, who am fond of 
exercise, and I should be most glad to 
see them in the course of being emanci¬ 
pated from that state of duress in which 
they are placed at Canton. One of my 
reasons for regretting that which is being 
done is, that it tends to retard indefinitely 
any such extension of the liberty of my 
countrymen. But while I say this, I 
cannot lose sight of the fact that there 
are a great many merchants in China 
who are engaged in a traffic of a very 
exceptional character, which is detri¬ 
mental not merely to the health but to 
the morals, to the souls and bodies of 
the Chinese. That trade is founded on 
a certain degree of licence and lawless¬ 
ness ; it flourishes in times of disorders 
and commotion, and anything which 


381 

plunges the East into anarchy and con¬ 
fusion, is promoting the interests of these 
merchants and serving their unholy gains. 
With those merchants I have no sym¬ 
pathy; but I am afraid that English mer¬ 
chants abroad do to some extent merit 
the reflections made by the gallant men 
whose letters I have read. And I doubt 
whether it is always for their benefit, as 
merchants, that they are placed in a 
position which enables them to summon 
to their aid an overwhelming force, to 
compel the authorities to yield to their 
demands. If hon. Gentlemen opposite 
will not take offence at a reference to a 
bygone question, I should say, that there 
may be too much protection for British 
merchants as well as for British agricul¬ 
ture. It is a fact, that while our exports 
are going on increasing, they are passing 
more and more through the hands of 
foreigners, and not through the hands of 
Englishmen. I speak from ocular ob¬ 
servation and personal experience when 
I say, that ifyougo to the Mediterranean, 
or the Levant, or to any of the ancient 
seats of commercial activity, you will 
find the English merchants, with all their 
probity and honour, which I maintain is 
on an equality with that of any other 
people, have been for some time in 
foreign countries declining in numbers. 
At Genoa, Venice, Leghorn, Trieste, 
Smyrna, Constantinople, you will find 
that the trade has passed out of the hands 
of British merchants, and into the hands 
of the Greeks, Swiss, or Germans, all 
belonging to countries that have no navy 
to protect them at all. This is the fact; 
and what is the inference ? It may be 
that English merchants are not educated 
sufficiently in foreign languages ; but it 
may be also that Englishmen carry with 
them their haughty and inflexible de¬ 
meanour into their intercourse with the 
natives of other countries. The noble 
Lord inscribes ‘ Civis Romanus sum ’ on 
our passports, which may be a very good 
thing to guard us in our footsteps. But 
‘ Civis Romanus sum ’ is not a very 
attractive motto to put over the door of 
our counting-houses abroad. 

Now, without wishing to do more than 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


3 S 2 

convey a friendly warning to a class with 
whom I have so great a sympathy, I 
may remark, that our merchants have 
at present a very large trade in China, 
in South America, and in India ; and 
the same failings which have lost the 
footing of our merchants in the Mediter¬ 
ranean, may be also a disadvantage to 
us in China and elsewhere. 

I come now to the consideration of 
the case of the Chinese merchants, as it 
is put forward by Lord Clarendon, and 
I will take the memorial of the East 
India and China Association of Liver¬ 
pool. These gentlemen are telling our 
Foreign Minister what they wish him to 
do in China; and let hon. Gentlemen 
hear what these moderate gentlemen 
wish to see effected 

‘ That a revision of the tariff of Customs 
duties should be made consistent with the 
spirit of the Treaty concluded by Sir Henry 
Pottinger—namely, an ad valorem duty of 
five per cent, on imports and exports.’ 

That is certainly a tariff which I should 
like to see applied to Liverpool. Let 
my Liverpool friends begin at home, 
and put themselves on the same platform 
with the Chinese. They then go on to 
say :— 

‘The British Government should insist on 
the right of opening to foreign trade any 
port on the coast of China, or on the banks 
of any navigable river, at any time they 
may think fit, and of placing Consuls at 
such ports ; that our ships of war should 
have the free navigation of and access to 
all the rivers and ports of China.’ 

Let us by the way of illustration, and 
bringing the matter nearer home, suppose 
that this is a document which has come 
to us from Moscow, and that it is ad¬ 
dressed not to China but to Turkey. 
Let us read it thus :—‘ The Russian 
Government should insist on the right 
of opening to foreign trade any port on 
the coast of Turkey, or on the banks of 
any navigable river, at any time they 
may think fit, and of placing Consuls at 
such ports ; that Russian ships of war 
should have the free navigation of and 
access to all the ports and rivers of 


Turkey.’ Can you imagine anything 
more stunning than the explosion that 
would take place at Liverpool if such a 
ukase as that was to come to us from 
Russia ? As a friend, not an enemy, of 
these gentlemen, I must say that such 
language as that is to be reprobated. I 
say it is to be reprobated, because it 
tends to place us who sympathise with 
mercantile men at a great disadvantage 
as regards even the naval and military 
classes. Contrast the kind and con¬ 
ciliatory language used by General 
D’Aguilar and Admiral Cochrane with 
the downright selfish violence and un¬ 
reasoning injustice with which the 
Liverpool Association would treat an 
empire containing 300,000,000 people. 
I think I know more about the trade of 
China than these gentlemen, and I will 
venture to say, that there is not a great 
empire in the world where trade is so 
free. I only wish that we had, not five 
ports but, one port in France, Austria, 
or Russia, where we should have the 
same low tariff as we now have in China. 
There is not a country on the face of 
the earth where trade is carried on with 
greater facility than in China. There is 
no place where if you send a ship you 
can get her unloaded and loaded with 
greater despatch, where the port charges 
and other expenses are so moderate, 
or where you are more certain to find 
a cargo of the produce of the country. 
You will find that statement corrobor¬ 
ated by the evidence of captains who 
have sailed to every quarter of the globe, 
and who have stated before a Committee 
of the House that there is no country in 
the world where trade can be carried on 
with greater facility than in China. Mr. 
Cook, the gentleman to whom I have 
already referred, confirmed it to me to¬ 
day. He said, ‘ I have known a ship 
of 1,500 tons coming into Whampoa, 
discharging her ballast, taking in her 
cargo, and sailing in five days.’ He 
added, ‘ Can you beat that in Liver¬ 
pool ? ’ I am afraid not. 

But what is it the Liverpool Associ¬ 
ation want ? Do they think that by 
opening a dozen other ports they will 



CHINA WAR. 


1857- 

necessarily, by sheer violence, increase 
their trade ? That was tried in the last 
war. We all remember the gloom which 
hung over this country in the summer of 
1842. It was once remarked by Sir R. 
Peel, that the fine harvest of that year 
and the news of the Chinese Treaty saved 
England from the most fearful state of 
panic and distress. We all know that 
the report of the Treaty with China, 
when received here, raised the most ex¬ 
travagant expectations. Our friends in 
Lancashire threw up their caps, and said, 

‘ In an empire of 300,000,000 people, 
and with free access to the northern 
ports, if every Chinaman buys a cotton 
nightcap, all our mills will be kept 
going.’ What, then, have been the 
results to our exports ? During the last 
three years, our exports to China have 
not averaged more than 1,250,000/. 
Before the war broke out, we had fre¬ 
quently years in which our manufactured 
exports amounted to as much as that. 
In fact, since 1842 we have not added to 
our exports in China at all, at least as 
far as our manufactures are concerned. 
We have increased our consumption of 
tea ; but that is all. 

I have here a letter, from the East 
India and China Association of London, 
signed by my hon. Friend the Member 
for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson), and writ¬ 
ten in so different a spirit from that of 
the Liverpool Association, that I have 
not one word to say against it, except 
that my hon. Friend has too great 
dependence upon what can be done for 
him by force of arms in China. You 
will find it stated in that letter that— 

' Our trade with China has become one 
of the greatest importance. The import 
at the time of the Treaty was, in 1842, 
42,000,000 lbs. of tea ; in 1856, 87,000,000 
lbs.’ 

It is hardly fair to compare these years, 
because 1842 was a year of war, while 
1856 was a year of large consumption. 
The statement in the letter with respect 
to silk is still more fallacious. It is 
this :— 

‘ In 1842 (yearly average), 3,000 bales ; 
in 1856, 56,000 bales.’ 


383 

Well, that may be accounted for by the 
failure of the silk crops in France and 
other parts of Europe ; and it is an 
illustration of the immense resources of 
China, that when you have a sudden 
i demand for silk, owing to the failure of 
the crops in Europe, by sending silver 
you can get any supply you want from 
China, no matter how unexpected may 
be the demand. But it is not fair to put 
that as the normal state of our trade. 

I have said that our imports have in¬ 
creased. Those imports have been paid 
largely by opium. It is said that our 
exports to India have also increased. 
True, our merchants may send their long- 
cloths to India, and there exchange them 
for opium ; that opium may go to China, 
and in return for it we may get silver 
back to India or to England. But I ap¬ 
prehend that if the land in India were 
not employed ingrowing poppies, it would 
be employed in growing something else, 
enabling the natives to buy the long- 
cloths of England, and that if the Chinese 
were not spending large sums upon 
opium, they, too, would buy something 
else. That question, however, I shall not 
go into; it is a very large one, and would 
be apt to excite angry passions. What I 
wish to say is, when the Liverpool mer¬ 
chants ask you to compel China to admit 
them to all her rivers, accompanied by 
ships of war, and to allow them to set 
up their shops wherever they please, do 
not, upon their authority, be deluded 
into the belief that the war in 1842 has 
increased our trade with China, and that 
a new war is likely to be followed by 
similar results. I venture to predict 
that the hostilities in which we are now 
engaged with China will diminish, not 
increase, our exports. 

Having trespassed so long upon the 
attention of the House, I shall allude to 
only one other point—the claim of for¬ 
eigners for admission to Canton. I have 
been careful to word my motion with a 
salvo upon that question. I am of opinion, 
whatever doubts may be entertained by 
others, that when the Treaty was signed 
in 1842, it was contemplated that for¬ 
eigners should have as free access to 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 


384 

Canton as to Shanghai or any other of 
the open ports. But a controversy has 
been carried on on that subject between 
our officials at Hongkong and the author¬ 
ities at Canton. In the papers will be 
found despatches, not only from Mr. 
Bonham, but from the noble Lord now 
at the head of the Government, in which 
the very best possible grounds are urged 
why our authorities at Hongkong should 
not persist in trying to gain admission 
for English merchants to Canton. It is 
stated, and I think in good faith, that 
the population of Canton, and, in fact, 
the population of that province of which 
Canton is the capital, is fierce and un¬ 
governable ; and they have hostile feel¬ 
ings towards the English ; and that, 
if our merchants were admitted into 
Canton, the greater contact would only 
lead to greater ill-will. I believe that 
apprehension is well founded. Whether 
it arises from the fierce and lawless dis¬ 
position of the Chinese, or from their 
past intercourse with the East India 
Company—which, we all know, yielded 
much for a little temporary peace—or 
whether it appertains to their southern 
clime, for in all countries the southern 
region is inhabited by the more fierce and 
turbulent part of the population—I know 
not; but certain it is that these Cantonese 
entertain feelings of the most hostile kind 
towards the foreigners, and I believe it 
was in good faith that it was urged by 
the Chinese Commissioner, by our own 
Plenipotentiary, and by Lord Palmerston 
himself, that it was not desirable to press 
further the question of admission into 
Canton. 

But let our merchants bear in mind, 
that what we are now fighting for is not 
the admission of foreigners into Canton. 
The sine qud non of Sir John Bowring, 
who certainly, I believe with Lord Derby, 
has a monomania about getting into 
Canton, is that the foreign authorities, 
not the foreign merchants, should be 
allowed to enter that city. I will ask 
the House, is it worth while fighting for 
this, that Sir John Bowring should have 
the right to go into Canton in one costume 
or another, especially when the Governor 


was ready to meet him half way out of 
the town ? I have always thought, that 
if a person of state and dignity left his 
own palace to meet another half way, it 
was a greater compliment than staying 
and making the reception at home. I 
cannot understand what we are fighting 
for, and why Sir John Bowring should 
think himself degraded by an interview 
with Governor Yeh at Howqua’s pack¬ 
ing-house. This is a topic worth nothing 
but a laugh. 

But is this admission to Canton, for 
which we are fighting, of any use ? Can¬ 
ton is a walled city, occupied by a native 
population, with streets eight feet wide. 
Would any Englishman ever dream of 
living in such a place ? Does an Eng¬ 
lishman live in the Turkish quarters of 
Constantinople? No; the habits and 
religion of the two races separate them. 
What would be the advantage to English 
residents in that part of China to admis¬ 
sion into Canton ? If they had free access 
into the country, and could take a ride 
or a walk for exercise, that would be a 
benefit to them; but the population in 
the neighbourhood is turbulent and in¬ 
subordinate, and our countrymen are 
not likely to receive good treatment 
there; and if the privilege were conceded, 
nobody would ever go into the city except 
to stare about him, or to make an ob¬ 
servation for his note-book. I apprehend 
that what the Cantonese authorities say 
is true —that the population is so turbu¬ 
lent, that Englishmen could not expect 
very good treatment. 

But if admission to Canton were 
desirable, is this the time for pressing 
it? The blue-book teems with reasons 
against such an idea. What do the in¬ 
habitants of Canton say in their address ? 
They say:— 

' The late affair of the lorcha was a trifle; 
it was no case for deep-seated animosity, 
as a great offence that could not be forgot¬ 
ten ; yet you have suddenly taken up arms, 
and for several days you have been firing 
shell, until you have burned dwellings and 
destroyed people in untold numbers. It 
cannot be either told how many old people, 
infants, and females have left their homes 



CHINA WAR. 


1857 - 

in affliction. If your countrymen have 
not seen this, they have surely heard, have 
they not, that such is the case ? What of¬ 
fence has been committed by the people of 
Canton that such a calamity should befall 
4 them ? Again, it is come to our knowledge 
that you are insisting on official receptions 
within the city. This is doubtless with a 
view to amicable relations; but, when your 
only proceeding is to open a fire upon 
us which destroys the people, supposing 
that you were to obtain admission into the 
city, still the sons, brothers, and kindred 
of the people, whom you have burned out 
and killed, will be ready to lay down their 
lives to be avenged on your countrymen, 
nor will the authorities be able to prevent 
them.' 

There is great good sense in that; and 
one of Governor Yeh’s letters might have 
been penned by the Duke of Wellington 
—it is so sententious. I allude to that 
in which Governor Yeh, in answer to 
Sir John Bowring, who asked for admis¬ 
sion to Canton, stated that he could not 
go out of his palace on account of the 
people, who were complaining of the 
proceedings of the English. He says, 

' If I went into the town, I do not know 
how I should ever get out again ; ’ mean¬ 
ing that the people would so crowd upon 
him with their complaints. On the same 
subject, Governor Yeh wrote to Sir John 
Bowring :— 

' In a letter from his Excellency Admiral 
Seymour, received some days ago, he says, 
that the present proposition is in no way 
connected with those of former years; that 
his demand is simply for the admission of 
the foreign representatives. The propo¬ 
sition made before was objected to by the 
entire population of Canton; the people 
affected by the present proposition are the 
same Canton people ; the city is the same 
Canton city ; it is not another and separate 
Canton city. How can it be said that there 
is no connection whatever between the two 
propositions? But more than this, the 
Canton people are very fierce and violent, 
differing in temper from the inhabitants of 
other provinces ; admission into the city 
was refused you in 1849 by the people of 
Canton ; and the people of Canton of the 
present day are the people of Canton of the 
year 1849 ; and there is this additional 
difficulty in mooting the question of acj- 


385 

mitting British subjects into the city now, 
namely, that the strong feeling against your 
Excellency's countrymen having been ag¬ 
gravated by the terrible suffering to which 
the people have been subjected without 
a cause, they are even more averse to the 
concession than they were before.’ 

That is perfectly natural, and should 
have put an end to the mooting of the 
question at the time. It is important 
that hon. Gentlemen should address 
themselves to this point, on which there 
is much misconception out of doors— 
namely, do the Chinese authorities act 
in good faith when they tell you that they 
cannot with convenience or safety carry 
out that clause of the Treaty which pro¬ 
vides for the admission of the English 
into Canton? I believe that they act in 
good faith, and the facts, I think, prove 
it. A previous Governor of Canton 
wrote to his Emperor with quaintness, 
but much truth, — ‘The inhabitants of 
Canton who are anxious to fight are 
many, but those who are conversant with 
justice are few.’ I think that this may 
also be said of the merchants of Liver¬ 
pool, whose memorial I have read. The 
papers already before Parliament are full 
of proofs of the kind. There is a com¬ 
munication from Sir George Bonham, 
stating that when a number of our 
merchants removed to Foo-Chow-foo 
they took with them their native servants 
from Canton; but these were found to 
be so pugnacious that the inhabitants of 
the province of Fokien, in which Foo- 
Chow-foo is situated, begged that they 
(the Cantonese) might all be sent away. 
But, under any circumstances, I do not 
think that our admission to the city of 
Canton would be of a farthing’s use. 
There are thousands of inhabitants out¬ 
side the walls, in the suburbs which have 
been destroyed, and these are the shop¬ 
keepers and brokers. It is with them 
that we do business, and, if we had free 
access into the city, we should still have 
to do our business outside. Therefore, 
we have no grievance against the Chinese 
for not opening Canton. 

But, supposing everything I have said 
on this subject could be contradicted and 

25 





386 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26 . 


invalidated, I have only to ask, whether 
it is right that, with respect to a country 
with which we have Treaty alliances, 
our representative should be allowed to 
declare war, and carry on war, without 
sanction from this country ? That is a 
question which I intend scarcely to touch 
upon, because others will be able to deal 
with it better ; but it is apparent, on the 
face of these papers, that the very diffi¬ 
culty into which we have fallen was 
foreseen, and that our authorities on the 
spot have been warned against the very 
acts they have committed. It is not 
merely that they have acted against 
general principles, which it is the interest 
of all nations to regard; but Sir John 
Bowring has acted positively contrary 
to his instructions in regard to the em¬ 
ployment of troops. There are letters 
from Lords Malmesbury and Granville, 
and particularly one from Earl Grey, 
which one can read and understand ; 
and these letters gave peremptory direc¬ 
tions, that on no account aggressive 
measures should be resorted to without 
recourse to England. You have, there¬ 
fore, to deal with your representative 
abroad, who not only has violated a 
sound principle of international law, but 
has gone against express injunctions. I 
perceive a great change in the tone of 
the correspondence between Sir John 
Bowring and Lord Clarendon, and that 
which passed between him and other 
Ministers with whom he had to deal. 
When Lord Clarendon came into office, 
there seemed to be some slackening of 
the rein, leading to the inference that 
the check previously held over our re¬ 
presentative was withdrawn, and that 
we were ‘drifting’ into a war with China, 
as we had into the late war, from the 
want of a firm hand on the part of 
persons in authority. Recollecting the 
instructions of Earl Grey, and looking into 
the correspondence that has taken place, 

I cannot help surmising that something 
must have occurred to lead our Plenipo¬ 
tentiary to suppose, that if we got into 
a conflict with the Chinese on the ques¬ 
tion of entering Canton, it would not be 
unfavourably regarded at home. The 


manner, then, in which we have been 
dragged into war, and the position of 
difficulty in which we have been placed, 
are much to be deplored. But, looking 
to the future, I think that you must 
confess that you find yourselves in a very 
difficult position. What are you going 
to do? You have destroyed the whole 
of the suburbs of the town of Canton ; 
you have destroyed the modern resid¬ 
ences of the merchants down to the 
river’s edge ; you have destroyed several 
hundred yards of streets in the old town; 
that is to say, the busy places of com¬ 
merce. Right and left, houses have 
perished, or been burnt up by incen¬ 
diaries, pillaged by rebels, or bombarded 
in order that freer range may be given 
to our guns. I have spoken to some of 
those who have come from China since 
this affair began, and they assure me that 
capitalists will desert Canton, and that 
the town will never be able to recover 
its business. They have deserted Canton 
because they felt too insecure to carry 
on their business, and it is supposed 
that that feeling will be lasting. The 
general impression is, that capital will 
depart from Canton, and receive employ¬ 
ment in other ports. You have, there¬ 
fore, destroyed that very port on which 
your commerce depended. It is surely 
not that for which you are carrying on 
war. 

And what is to be your position for 
the future? You have entered into a 
war which cannot be defended. Sir John 
Bowring did not tell Commissioner Yeh 
that this was not a legal ship; but our 
debates are published to the world. Lord 
Lyndhurst is an authority in America 
and France as well as here. What will 
they think of us when they read that the 
noble and learned Lord has declared the 
quarrel to be founded, on our part, on 
a triple illegality, and that we cannot 
really urge a single fact in defence of our 
conduct? We had a very good case 
before, if we had chosen to insist upon 
it ; but the noble Lord at the head of the 
Government has given up the claim for 
admission into Canton. You might have 
gone to Pekin and said, * Fulfil the 




CHINA WAR. 


1857- 


^7 


Treaty of 1842, open the gates of Canton 
as you promised to do.’ But Lord Claren¬ 
don says that this quarrel has nothing 
whatever to do with that. No; it was 
necessary that that ground should be 
abandoned, because, bad as this case is, 
the present Government could rely upon 
no other defence than this about the 
Arrow, inasmuch as the question about 
entering would get up an old controversy, 
to which other nations were not parties. 
They were, therefore, obliged to raise a 
quarrel in which they expected other 
nations would join. But do you suppose 
that France and America will join with 
you now, and join in making common 
cause with you on the ground of this 
Arrow ? I speak advisedly when I say, 
that I believe the American Government 
will not approve the course that has been 
taken. I believe they will not join in 
these violent proceedings. There are 
some people who know the French Go¬ 
vernment better than I do; but is it 
likely, when you have so bad, so wretch¬ 
ed, and so dirty a case as this of the 
Arrow, that any one will take share in it 
on your side ? You must give up your 
case some time or other ; and when so 
proper a time as this to declare that you 
do not approve these miserable proceed¬ 
ings, which have been carried on in your 
name unwarrantably by your subordin¬ 
ate representatives ? 

But may not this war, if it should go 
on, lead to complications with other 
Powers ? May it not lead to complica¬ 
tions with America? I see in these 
papers that the American merchants 
immediately protested against it. An 
American house at Canton has publicly 
protested against this war, as having 
been commenced without notice, and 
have declared that they will therefore 
hold England responsible for any damage 
that may be done to their property. 
Well, what do you propose for the future ? 
Part of the wall of Canton was battered 
down in the expectation that the Govern¬ 
or would yield. But he has not yielded, 
although you have bombarded the city 
itself, and thrown shells into it. What, 
then, do you propose to do? You have 


done everything short of burning the 
town — if, indeed, that has not been 
commenced. If you do that, you will 
raise a cry of horror from every civilised 
people. I see by the Indian papers that 
the Friend of India, which is always a 
great advocate of annexation, tells Sir 
John Bowring to play the part of another 
Clive, and to enter upon a career of con¬ 
quest, and to annex China as we have 
annexed India. Are you sure that ex¬ 
tensive territorial acquisitions in China 
would be acquiesed in by other Powers ? 
The United States of America are only 
half the distance from China that you are. 
They have a great Pacific as well as an 
Atlantic empire. I am not sure that 
America would acquiesce in your making 
an India of China. Does anybody who 
knows anything about China believe that 
you could annex it ? It is an empire of 
300,000,000 people. How are you to 
govern them ? Nobody that has ever 
thought upon the subject would dream 
of your being able to do so. 

Then what do you propose to do ? I 
say, undo what you have done. The 
wisest course which you could adopt 
would be to repudiate the acts of your 
representative, who has acted without 
authority and without instructions. That 
would be a statesmanlike and prudent 
course. Disavow the acts of your repre¬ 
sentatives in this miserable affair of the 
Arrow; but try, at the same time, to 
get those facilities of international inter¬ 
course in that great country which your 
merchants so much desire, and which 
your representations will in all proba¬ 
bility enable you to obtain. America and 
France would lend you a joint influence 
in making such representations, which 
you never can hope to have while you 
are fighting on behalf of this affair of 
the Arrow. 

But I have said enough with regard to 
my view upon the subject; I leave the 
matter in the hands of the House. I hope 
we shall not hear it said in this House— 
as it has been in another place—that 
these are barbarous people, and that you 
must deal with them by force. I tell 
you, that if you attempt to deal thus with 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


FEB. 26, 1857. 


388 

them, it will be a difficult matter, and 
one, too, that will be costly to the people 
of this country. You will be disappointed, 
and deservedly so, if relying upon the 
supposition that you will be able to coerce 
the Chinese Government by force—you 
will be disappointed if you think that 
you will be repaid by increased commerce 
for the employment of violence. If you 
make the attempt, you will be disap¬ 
pointed again, as you have been disap¬ 
pointed before. And are these people 
so barbarous that we should attempt to 
coerce them by force into granting what 
we wish ? Here is an empire in which 
is the only relic of the oldest civilisation 
of the world—one which 2,700 years ago, 
according to some authorities, had a 
system of primary education—which had 
its system of logic before the time of 
Aristotle, and its code of morals before 
that of Socrates. Here is a country which 
has had its uninterrupted traditions and 
histories for so long a period—that sup¬ 
plied silks and other articles of luxury to 
the Romans 2,000 years ago ! They are 
the very soul of commerce in the East. 
You find them carrying on their industry 


in foreign countries with that assiduity 
and laboriousness which characterise the 
Scotch and the Swiss. You find them 
not as barbarians at home, where they 
cultivate all the arts and sciences, and 
where they have carried all, except one, 
to a point of perfection but little below 
our own—but that one is war. You have 
there a people who have carried agricul¬ 
ture to such a state as to become horti¬ 
culture, and whose great cities rival in 
population those of the Western world. 
There must be something in such a 
people deserving of respect. If, in speak¬ 
ing of them, we stigmatise them as bar¬ 
barians, and threaten them with force 
because we say they are inaccessible to 
reason, it must be because we do not 
understand them; because their ways are 
not our ways, nor our ways theirs. Is 
not so venerable an empire as that de¬ 
serving of some sympathy—at least of 
some justice—at the hands of conserva¬ 
tive England? To the representatives 
of the people in this House I commend 
this question, with full confidence that 
they will do justice to that people. 



FOREIGN POLICY. 

I. 

HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 12, 1849. 


[In the year 1849, the revolutionary or reforming spirit, which had agitated Europe for a 
year before, was either repressed by violence, or had grown languid by reaction. 
Among the events, however, which excited the feelings of the English people strongly, 
was the armed intervention of Russia in the affairs of Hungary, and in support of the 
despotism of Austria. There is little doubt that the indignation which was roused in 
England at this act of the Emperor Nicholas, gave strength, a few years subsequently, 
to the feeling which prompted the Crimean War. Mr. Cobden on both occasions 
pleaded for the adoption of a principle of non-intervention. On the present, his 
motion, which ran, ' That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying 
that she will be graciously pleased to direct her Principal Secretary of State for Foreign 
Affairs to enter into communications with Foreign Powers, inviting them to concur in 
Treaties, binding the respective parties, in the event of any future misunderstanding, 
which cannot be arranged by amicable negotiation, to refer the matter in dispute to 
the decision of arbitrators,' was rejected by moving the previous question. Majority, 
97 (176-79)-] 


I do not remember rising to address 
the House on any occasion when I felt 
more desirous to be indulged with its 
attention ; because, representing as I do 
a very numerous body out of this House, 
who take a deep interest in the question, 
I feel regret on their account, as well as 
for the cause I have in hand, that there 
should be so much misapprehension in 
the House in reference to the motion I 
am about to make. What has just fallen 
from the hon. Member for Bucks (Mr. 
Disraeli) is a proof of this misconception; 
for he would not have presumed to sneer 
at a motion before it was made, unless he 
had conceived that there was something 
so unreasonable and preposterous about 
it, that it ought to be condemned before 
it was heard. I have heard that hon. 
Gentleman indulge in a sneer before, on 
many occasions ; but they have been 
ex post facto sneers. 1 have never until 
now heard him sneer at a matter by anti¬ 


cipation. He has grounded that sneer on 
an observation drawn forth by a subject 
which was calculated above all others to 
move the milk of human kindness in our 
bosoms. How it was possible for an hon. 
Member, in reference to the answer re¬ 
turned by the American President to 
Lady Franklin’s letter, to indulge in a 
sneer of that kind, I cannot understand ; 
unless it be that the hon. Gentleman is 
incapable of anything but sneering. I 
accept those acts of the American and 
Russian Governments as proofs that we 
live in altered times. As the right hon. 
Member for the University of Oxford 
(Mr. W.E. Gladstone) has well observed; 
at no former period of the world’s history 
has there been an instance of foreign 
Governments sending out, at their ex¬ 
pense, to seek for scientific adventurers, 
unconnected with their own community. 
Accepting this as a proof that we live in 
different times from those that are past, 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 12, 


39 ° 

I think there is nothing unreasonable 
in our seeking to take another step to¬ 
wards consolidating the peace of nations, 
and securing us against the recurrence 
of the greatest calamity that can afflict 
mankind. 

I stand here the humble representative 
of two distinct bodies, both of some 
importance in the community. In the 
first place, I represent on this occasion, 
and for this specific motion alone, that 
influential body of Christians who repu¬ 
diate war in any case, whether offensive 
or defensive; I also represent that 
numerous portion of the middle classes 
of this country, with the great bulk of 
the working classes, who have an abhor¬ 
rence of war, greater than at any former 
period of our history, and who desire 
that we should take some new precau¬ 
tions, and, if possible, obtain some guar¬ 
antees, against the recurrence of war in 
future. Those two classes have found in 
the motion which I am about to submit 
a common ground—and I rejoice at it— 
on which they can unite without com¬ 
promising their principles, on one side 
or the other. It is not necessary that 
any one in this House, or out of it, who 
accedes to this motion, should be of 
opinion that we are not justified, under 
any circumstances, in resorting to w r ar, 
even in self-defence. It is only necessary 
that you should be agreed that war is a 
great calamity, which it is desirable we 
should avoid if possible. If you feel that 
the plan proposed is calculated to attain 
the object sought, you may vote for it 
without compromising yourselves on the 
extreme principle of defensive war. I 
assume that every one in this House 
would only sanction war, in case it was 
imperatively demanded on our part, in 
defence of our honour, or our just inter¬ 
ests. I take it that every one here would 
repudiate war, unless it were called for 
by such motives. I assume, moreover, 
that there is not a man in this House 
who would not repudiate war, if those 
objects—the just interests and honour of 
the country—could be preserved by any 
other means. My object is to see if we 
cannot devise some better method than 


war for attaining those ends ; and my 
plan is, simply and solely, that we should 
resort to that mode of settling disputes 
in communities, which individuals resort 
to in private life. I only want you to go 
one step farther, to carry out in another 
instance the principle which you recog¬ 
nise in other cases—that the intercourse 
between communities is nothing more 
than the intercourse of individuals in the 
aggregate. I want to know why there 
may not be an agreement between this 
country and France, or between this 
country and America, by which the 
nations should respectively bind them¬ 
selves, in case of any misunderstanding 
arising which could not be settled by 
mutual representation or diplomacy, to 
refer the dispute to the decision of arbi¬ 
trators. By arbitrators I do not mean 
necessarily crowned heads, or neutral 
states; though we have examples where 
disputes have been referred to crowned 
heads, and where their arbitrament has 
been eminently successful. There is a 
case where the United States and France 
referred a dispute to England ; a case in 
which England and the United States 
referred a dispute to Russia; one in 
which the United States and Mexico 
referred a question to Prussia, and one 
in which the United States and England 
referred a case to the King of the Nether¬ 
lands. These cases were all eminently 
successful. If one failed in its immediate 
object, there is no instance in which a 
war has followed after such a reference. 
But I do not confine myself to the plan 
of referring disputes to neutral Powers. 
I see the difficulty of two independent 
states, like England and France, doing 
so, as one might prefer a republic for 
the arbitrator, and the other a monarchy. 

I should prefer to see these disputes re¬ 
ferred to individuals, whether designated 
commissioners, or plenipotentiaries, or 
arbitrators, appointed from one country 
to meet men appointed from another 
country to inquire into the matter and 
decide upon it; or, if they cannot do so, to 
have the power of calling in an umpire, as 
is done in all arbitrations. I propose that 
these individuals should have absolute 




1849. 


FOREIGN POLICY. I. 


39i 


power to dispose of the question sub¬ 
mitted to them. 

I want to show that I am practical 
on this occasion, and, therefore, I will 
cite some cases in which this method of 
arranging difficulties has already been 
resorted to. In 1794 we had a Treaty 
with America, for the settlement of cer¬ 
tain British claims on the American Go¬ 
vernment. Those claims were referred 
to four commissioners, two appointed on 
each side, with the proviso that they 
should elect unanimously, an arbitrator; 
in case they should not agree in the 
choice of an arbitrator, it was provided 
that the representatives of each country 
should put the names of certain arbitra¬ 
tors into an urn, one to be drawn out by 
lot; and this arbitrator and the four 
commissioners decided by a majority 
all the cases brought before them. Again, 
in the Treaty of 1814 with the United 
States, provision was made for settling 
most important matters, precisely in the 
way I now propose. Provision was 
made for settling the boundary between 
the United States and Canada, for some 
thousands of miles; also for defining the 
right to certain islands lying on the 
coast; and for settling the boundary be¬ 
tween Maine and New Brunswick. The 
plan was this: each country named a 
commissioner; the commissioners were 
to endeavour to agree on these disputed 
points ; and the matters on which they 
could not agree were referred to some 
neutral state. All the matters referred 
to them—and most important they were 
—were arranged by mutual conference 
and mutual concessions, except the ques¬ 
tion of the Maine boundary, which was 
accordingly referred to the king of the 
Netherlands. Afterwards, exception was 
taken to his decision by the United 
States ; the matter remained open till the 
time of Lord Ashburton’s mission; and 
it was finally settled by him. But in no 
case has any such reference ever been 
followed by war. In 1818 there was a 
Convention with America, for settling 
the claims made by that country for cap¬ 
tured negroes during the war. It was 
agreed to refer that matter to the Emperor 


of Russia ; and he decided in favour of 
the principle of compensation. Pie was 
then appealed to by both the Govern¬ 
ments to define a mode by which this 
compensation should be adjudged; and 
his plan was this: he said, ‘ Let each 
party name a commissioner and an arbi¬ 
trator ; let the commissioners meet, and, 
if they can agree, well and good ; if not, 
let the names of the arbitrators be put 
into an urn, and one drawn out by lot; 
and that arbitrator and the two commis¬ 
sioners shall decide the question by a ma¬ 
jority.’ This method was adopted, and 
compensation to the extent of 1,200,000 
dollars was given, without any difficulty. 
Hence, it appears that what I propose is 
no novelty, no innovation; it has been 
practised, and practised with success ; I 
only want you to carry the principle a 
little farther, and resort to it, in anticipa¬ 
tion, as a mode of arranging all quarrels. 

For this reason, I propose an address 
to the Crown, praying that Her Majesty 
will instruct her Foreign Secretary to 
propose to foreign Powers to enter into 
treaties, providing that, in case of any 
future misunderstanding, which cannot 
be settled by amicable negotiation, an 
arbitration, such as I have described, 
shall be resorted to. There is no diffi¬ 
culty in fixing the means of arbitration, 
and providing the details; for arbitration 
is so much used in private life, and is, 
indeed, made parts of so many statutes 
and Acts of Parliament, that there is no 
difficulty whatever in carrying out the 
plan, provided you are agreed as to the 
policy of doing so. Now, I shall be 
met with this objection—I have heard 
it already—and I know there are Mem¬ 
bers of this House who purpose to vote 
against the motion on this ground: they 
say, ‘ What is the use of a treaty of this 
sort, between France and England, for 
instance; the parties would not observe 
the treaty; it would be a piece of waste 
paper ; they would go to war, as before, 
in spite of any treaty.’ It would be a 
sufficient answer to this objection to say, 

‘ What is the use of any treaty? What is 
the use of the Foreign Office? What is 
the use of your diplomacy ? ’ You might 





SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 12, 


392 

shut up the one and cashier the other. 
I maintain, that a treaty binding two 
countries to refer their disputes to arbi¬ 
tration, is just as likely to be observed as 
any other treaty. Nay, I question very 
much whether it is not more likely to be 
observed ; because, I think there is no 
object which other countries will be less 
likely to seek than that of having a war 
with a country so powerful as England. 
Therefore, if any provision were made 
by which you might honourably avoid a 
war, that provision would be as gladly 
sought by your opponents as by your¬ 
selves. But I deny that, as a rule, 
treaties are violated ; as a rule, they are 
respected and observed. I do not find 
that wars, generally, arise out of the 
violation of any specific treaty—they 
more commonly arise out of accidental 
collisions ; and, as a rule, treaties are 
observed by powerful States against the 
weak, just as well as by weak States 
against the powerful. I, therefore, see 
no difficulty specially applying to a 
treaty of this kind, greater than exists 
with other treaties. There would be 
this advantage, at all events, in having 
a treaty binding another country to re¬ 
fer all disputes to arbitration. If that 
country did not fulfil its engagement, it 
would enter into war with the brand of 
infamy stamped upon its banners. It 
could not proclaim to the world that it 
was engaged in a just and necessary war. 
On the contrary, all the world would 
point to that nation as violating a treaty, 
by going to war with a country with 
whom they had engaged to enter into 
arbitration. I anticipate another objec¬ 
tion which I have heard made : they 
say, ‘ Y ou cannot entrust the great in¬ 
terests of England to individuals or 
commissioners.’ That difficulty springs 
out of the assumption, that the quarrels 
with foreign countries are about ques¬ 
tions involving the whole existence of 
the empire. On the contrary, whenever 
these quarrels take place, it is generally 
upon the most minute and absurd pre¬ 
texts—so trivial that it is almost impos¬ 
sible, on looking back for the last hun¬ 
dred years, to tell precisely what any 


war was about. I heard the other day 
of a boy going to see a model of the 
battle of Waterloo, and when he asked 
what the battle was about, neither the 
old soldier who had charge of the exhi¬ 
bition, nor any one in the room, could 
answer the question. I may quote the 
remark made the other night by the 
noble Lord (J. Russell) at the head of 
the Government—that the last two wars 
were unnecessary—in which I quite agree 
with him. 

But, to return to the point whether 
or not commissioners might be entrusted 
with the grave matters which form the 
subjects of dispute between nations, I 
would draw the attention of the House 
to the fact, that already you do virtually 
entrust these matters to individuals. 
Treaties of peace, made after war, are 
entrusted to individuals to negotiate 
and carry out. Take the case of Lord 
Castlereagh, representing the British 
power at the Congress of Vienna. He 
had full power to bind this country to 
the Treaty of Vienna. When, on the 
20th of March, 1815, Mr. Whitbread 
brought on the subject of the Treaty, 
with the view of censuring his conduct 
and that of the Government, Lord 
Castlereagh distinctly told the House, 

‘ I did not wait for instructions at 
Vienna; I never allowed the machine 
of the Congress to stand still for want of 
my concurrence on important matters; 
I took upon myself the responsibility of 
acting ; and if the interests and honour 
of England have been sacrificed, I stand 
here alone responsible.’ I want to 
know, whether as good men as Lord 
Castlereagh coidd not be found to settle 
these matters before, as after, a twenty 
years’ war ? Why not depute to a 
plenipotentiary the same powers before 
a conflict as you give him after? For 
these matters can only be settled by 
empowering individuals to act for you ; 
and let the Government instruct them 
as they will, a discretionary power, after 
all, must be left, when they are to bind 
the country towards other States. Take 
the case of Lord Ashburton, settling the 
Maine boundary question in America. 



FOREIGN POLICY. 1. 


393 


1849 . 

He had the power to bind this country 
to anything he set his hand to. No 
doubt he had his instructions from the 
Government, but he presents his creden¬ 
tials to the American Government, and 
is received by them as authorised to 
bind this country to anything he agrees 
to do. All I want is, that this should 
be done before, and not after, engaging 
in a war—done to avert the war, rather 
than to make up the difference after the 
parties are exhausted by the conflict. 

Probably I shall be told that there are 
signs of a pacific tendency on the part 
of the Government and the country ; it 
will be said that we are carrying out a 
pacific policy, and that there is no 
necessity for passing any resolution to 
impose on the Government the obligation 
of giving us this guarantee. But I do 
not see that this is in process of being 
done. I do not see any proof, in the 
last five or six years, that the Govern¬ 
ment has been increasing in its confid¬ 
ence of peace being preserved, or gain¬ 
ing security for its preservation. In the 
last ten years we have increased our 
armed forces by 60,000 ; in the army, 
navy, and ordnance, the expenditure 
has been augmented sixty to seventy per 
cent. From 1836, down to last year, 
there is no proof of the Government 
having any confidence in the duration of 
peace, or possessing increased security 
against war. I think the inference is 
quite the contrary. In the committees on 
which I have been sitting, I have seen an 
amount of preparation for war which has 
astounded me; and I dare say other 
honourable Gentlemen would share my 
alarm at the state of things. But I con¬ 
fess, when I have looked into what we 
are doing in the way of provision of war¬ 
like stores, means of aggression, and 
preparations for defence against some 
foreign enemy, I have been astonished 
at the warlike expenditure that is going 
on. What will honourable Gentlemen 
think when they know that we have 
170,000 barrels of gunpowder in store ? 
Besides that, we have sixty-five millions 
of ball-cartridges made up ready for use. 
(Hear, hear, and a laugh, from the Pro¬ 


tectionist benches.) The public will 
not laugh when they read what I say. 
They will not join the honourable Mem¬ 
bers for counties opposite in laughing 
at this statement. We have 50,000 
pieces of cannon in store, besides those 
afloat, and in arsenals, and garrisons, 
and batteries. There are 5,000,000 of 
cannon-balls and shells in the stores, and 
1,200,000 sand-bags, ready for use when¬ 
ever they are needed. There is a pro¬ 
vision equal to three or four years’ con¬ 
sumption of these articles in the height 
of the French war. You have, in 
barrelled gunpowder alone, a supply 
equal to nearly three years’ consumption 
of that article in the height of the French 
war, and equal to fifteen years’ consump¬ 
tion at the present rate, to say nothing of 
the sixty-five millions of ball-cartridges. 
Does this look as if the Government 
thought we had made any great way in 
the preservation of peace ? Is it the 
part of a country, assured of peace, to 
make all this provision against war? 
You have spent, in the last five or six 
years, on an average, twice as much in 
fortifications, in steam-basins, in docks, 
in barracks, in means of aggressive and 
defensive warfare, as at any period since 
the peace; and my hon. Friend the 
Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), who 
has looked much longer and deeper into 
those subjects than I have, believes it is 
more than was spent in the same time 
for those objects during the war. Since 
1836 you have doubled the expenditure 
of the ordnance department. It is in 
that department that the great increase 
takes place ; because, in the progress of 
mechanical invention, and the improve¬ 
ments made in the science of projectiles, 
it is found that the artillery and engineer 
corps are the arms of the service on 
which the fate of battles mainly depends. 

So, again, in the case of steam-basins. 
A great discovery came to the aid of 
civilisation—the discovery of Fulton— 
which he and others probably hoped 
would be made contributory to the un¬ 
alloyed improvement and happiness of 
mankind. What has been the effect in our 
case ? We commenced the construction 





394 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 12 , 


of a steam-navy. I do not say whether 
it was necessary or not, but I want 
you to try and make it in some degree 
unnecessary in future. The Govern¬ 
ment continued to increase the steam- 
navy, until we had as much money spent 
in steam vessels of war as we had invested 
in our merchant-steamers. I made this 
statement last year; I repeat it advisedly, 
as capable of the strictest proof. It was 
then received with incredulity and sur¬ 
prise by the right hon. the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer (Sir C. Wood) ; some 
facts which I showed him afterwards 
rather staggered him, and I am now 
prepared to prove that when I stated the 
fact last year, it was strictly true that we 
had invested in steam-vessels of war a 
larger amount than the whole cost of our 
mercantile steam marine ; that we had 
expended far more in steam-basins and 
docks for repair of those vessels than 
was invested in the private docks and 
yards, for building and repairing private 
steamers. 

What are we to deduce from these 
facts ? That instead of making the pro¬ 
gress of civilisation subservient to the 
welfare of mankind—instead of making 
the arts of civilisation available for in¬ 
creasing the enjoyments of life—you are 
constantly bringing these improvements 
in science to bear upon the deadly con¬ 
trivances of war, and thus are making 
the arts of peace and the discoveries of 
science contribute to the barbarism of 
the age. But will anybody presume to 
answer me by the declaration that we 
want no further guarantee for the pre¬ 
servation of peace? Will anyone tell 
me that I am not strictly justified and 
warranted in trying, at all events, to bring 
to bear the opinion of this House, of the 
country, and of the civilised world, upon 
some better mode of preserving peace 
than that which imposes upon us almost 
all the burdens which war formerly used 
to entail ? We are now spending every 
year on our armaments more than we 
spent annually, in the seven years’ war, 
in the middle of the last century. There¬ 
fore, far from being deterred by sneers, 

I join most heartily and contentedly with 


those worthy men out of the House, who 
are inspired by higher motives than I 
can hope to bring to bear on this occasion, 
and which I could not probably so rightly 
urge as I do those which come within 
your province; I join most heartily in 
sharing the odium, the ridicule, the 
calumny, and the derision, which some 
are attempting to cast upon those advo¬ 
cates of peace and of reduced armaments. 

But I wish to know where this system 
is to end. I have sat on the army, navy, 
and ordnance committees, and I see no 
limit to the increase of our armaments 
under the existing system. Unless you 
can adopt some such plan as I propose, 
unless you can approach foreign countries 
in a conciliatory spirit, and offer to them 
some kind of assurance that you do not 
wish to attack them, and receive the 
assurance that you are not going to be 
assailed by them, I see no necessary or 
logical end to the increase of our estab¬ 
lishments. For the progress of scientific 
knowledge will lead to a constant increase 
of expenditure. There is no limit but the 
limit of taxation, and that, I believe, you 
have nearly reached. I shall probably be 
told that my plan would not suit all cases. 

I think it would suit all cases a great 
deal better than the plan which is now 
resorted to. At all events, arbitration 
is more rational, just, and humane than 
the resort to the sword. In the one case, 
you make men what they are never 
allowed to be in private life—the judge 
in their own case ; you make them judge, 
jury, and executioner. In the other case, 
you refer the dispute to impartial indi¬ 
viduals, selected for their intelligence 
and general capabilities. In any case, 
and under any circumstances, I do not 
see why my plan should not have the 
advantage over that now adopted. If I 
am opposed by supposititious cases, and 
told that my plan would not apply to 
such, I take my stand upon past expe¬ 
rience, and will show you numerous 
instances where it would have applied. 
Nay, I am prepared to show that all the 
unavoidable quarrels we have had during 
the last twenty-years—I mean those 
which could not have been avoided by 





FOREIGN POLICY. I. 


395 


1849. 

any conduct on the part of our Govern¬ 
ment—all these might have been more 
fitly settled by arbitration than in any 
other way ; and I will appeal to the 
right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of 
this House, who have filled the highest 
offices of Government, when such dis¬ 
putes have arisen, whether they would 
not have felt relieved from harassing 
responsibilities, had they had this prin¬ 
ciple of arbitration to rely on, in these 
cases. 

Take the case of 1837, when a dispute 
arose with Russia, about the confiscation 
of a ship in the Black Sea, called the 
Vixen. The noble Lord, the Member 
for Tiverton, was then Foreign Secretary. 
He knows very well that this vessel was 
sent to the Black Sea by a certain party, 
with a particular object; the thing was 
entirely got up. I was in Constantinople 
at the time, and knew the whole history 
of it. That vessel was freighted and 
sent to the coast of Circassia, for the very 
purpose of embroiling us with Russia; 
and immediately she was seized, there 
was a party in this country ready to raise 
an excitement against the noble Lord, 
for submitting to the arrogant spoliation 
of the Russian Government. Hadwethen 
had an arbitration treaty with Russia, 
would not that havebeenthe best possible 
resource for the noble Lord in that case, 
and have enabled him to escape the 
party attacks made upon him in this 
country ? That question, which, after 
all, did not involve an amount of pro¬ 
perty exceeding 2,000/. or 3,000/., might 
have been settled by a petty jury of 
twelve honest tradesmen, quite as well 
as by the noble Lord at the Foreign 
Office. 

Will any one, for a moment, tell me 
that the disputes about the boundary 
between Maine and New Brunswick, 
and the misunderstanding respecting 
Oregon, might not have been settled by 
arbitration? I prefer the appointment 
of commissioners to that of crowned 
heads—because I would have men who 
are most competent to judge of the sub¬ 
ject in dispute. For instance, this was 
a geographical question: why should 


not the two ablest geographers of this 
country have met those of the United 
States, assuming them otherwise quali¬ 
fied by moral character and general at¬ 
tainments, and have been authorised to 
call in an umpire, if necessary? Sup¬ 
posing the case to have been left to the 
decision of such an umpire as Baron 
Humboldt, for example ; would he not 
have decided far more correctly than 
any war would be likely to do ? I know 
that the Oregon question caused the 
liveliest apprehensions to those who 
were engaged on both sides, in this dis¬ 
pute, in 1846. I am aware that Mr. 
M'Lane, the American Minister, felt 
the greatest solicitude, and manifested 
the deepest anxiety on the arrival of 
every packet, and I know how anxious 
he was that the right hon. Gentleman 
(Sir R. Peel) should remain in office 
till the question was settled. I know 
what he felt, and what every Minister 
in a similar position must feel, on such 
occasions. The great difficulty was lest 
party spirit and popular excitement 
should arise on either side of the water, 
to hinder and perplex the efforts of those 
who were interested in its settlement. 
It is to remove that difficulty in future 
—to prevent the interposition of bad 
passions and popular prejudices in these 
disputes—that I desire to have provision 
made, beforehand, for the settlement of 
any quarrel that may arise by arbitration. 

There was another case, in 1841, the 
danger from which was, in my mind, 
the most imminent of all—I mean the 
case of Mr. M ‘Leod, who had been 
taken and imprisoned by the State of 
New York, and tried for his life, for 
having, as he himself avowed, taken 
part in the burning of the Caroline, in 
which an American citizen lost his life. 
Our Government claimed to have this 
question decided between the general 
Government of the United States and 
themselves. But the Government of the 
United States said that they had not the 
power to remove the case out of the 
New York Court, and that they could 
not prevent the State of New York 
proceeding in the matter. We all know 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 12, 


396 


the excitement which took place on that 
occasion. There was great irritation in 
America, and great excitement in this 
country. Now, if Mr. M'Leod had been 
executed, what would the consequence 
have been in this country ? Why, the 
old cry of our honour being involved 
would have been raised. [An hon. 
Member: ‘Certainly.’] An hon. Mem¬ 
ber says, ‘ Certainly.’ But what means 
would you take to vindicate your hon¬ 
our? You would go to war, and, for 
the one life that had been taken away, 
you would sacrifice the lives of thousands, 
nay, perhaps, tens of thousands. But 
would all this sacrifice of human life 
restore the life of the man on whose 
account you were fighting? Would it 
not be mnch wiser if, instead of resorting 
to war,—which is nothing but wholesale 
murder, if war can be avoided,—you 
had recourse to arbitration, by which, 
indeed, you could as little restore the 
individual to life, as by the employment 
of all your military forces, but by which 
you might obtain a provision for his 
widow and family, and which, be it 
remarked, is no part of the object of 
those who engage in wars ? 

Now, there is another case, upon 
which I call the right hon. Gentleman 
opposite (Sir R. Peel) as a witness into 
court — the case of Mr. Pritchard, a 
missionary, and the consul of this coun¬ 
try at Tahiti, who had been put under 
arrest by the French admiral. When 
this news first arrived in this country, 
from a distance of 12,000 or 14,000 
miles, the press, both here and in 
France, sounded the tocsin, and national 
prejudices and hatreds were invoked on 
both sides. The French Minister, M. 
Guizot, was told that he was going to 
succumb to the dictation of England ; 
and in this country, it was said that the 
honour of England was sacrificed to the 
insolence of France. The right hon. 
Gentleman (Sir R. Peel), then at the 
head of affairs, rose in his place in this 
House, and declared that the insult 
offered was one of the grossest outrages 
ever committed, and was inflicted in the 
grossest manner. That added to the 


difficulty of dealing with the question in 
the proper manner. M. Guizot and 
Lord Aberdeen also complained of the 
conduct of the press of both countries, 
which exasperated the national animosity 
on that occasion, and rendered it more 
difficult to settle the question amicably. 
I now ask the right hon. Gentleman, if 
he would not have felt consoled and 
happy, in 1844, if a treaty of arbitration 
had existed between this country and 
France, by which this miserable and 
trumpery question might have been at 
once withdrawn from the arena of 
national controversy, and placed under 
the adjudication of a commission set 
apart for that purpose ? 

I may be told that none of these 
instances had led to or terminated in 
war. That is true. But they led to an 
enormous amount of expenditure ; and, 
what is worse, to lasting hate between 
nations. I have no hesitation in saying 
that these disputes have cost this country 
30,000,000/. sterling. They not only 
led to expenditure in preparation for 
war at the time, but they occasioned a 
permanent increase in your establish¬ 
ments, as I have shown you on a former 
occasion, and you are now paying every 
year for the increase of these establish¬ 
ments which was then made. 

Now, I would ask, in the face of 
these facts, where is the argument you 
can use against the reasonable proposi¬ 
tion which I now put forward ? I may 
be told that, even if you make treaties 
of this kind, you cannot enforce the 
award. I admit it. I am no party to 
the plan which some advocate—no doubt 
with the best intentions—of having a 
Congress of nations, with a coc'e of laws 
—a supreme court of appeal, with an 
army to support its decisions. I am no 
party to any such plan. I believe it 
might lead to more armed interference 
than takes place at present. The hon. 
Gentleman opposite, who is to move 
an amendment to my motion (Mr. 
Urquhart), has evidently mistaken my 
object. The hon. Gentleman is exceed- 
| ingly attentive in tacking on amend¬ 
ments to other persons’ motions. My 



FOREIGN POLICY. I. 


397 


1849. 

justification for alluding to him, on the 
present occasion, is, that he has founded 
his amendment on a misapprehension of 
what my motion is. He has evidently 
conceived the idea that I have a grand 
project for putting the whole world 
under some court of justice. I have no 
such plan in view at all ; and, therefore, 
neither the hon. Gentleman, nor any 
other person, will answer my arguments, 
if he has prepared a speech assuming 
that I contemplate anything of the kind. 

I have no plan for compelling the fulfil¬ 
ment of treaties of arbitration. I have 
no idea of enforcing treaties in any other 
way than that now resorted to. I do 
not, myself, advocate an appeal to 
arms ; but that which follows the vio¬ 
lation of a treaty, under the present 
system, may follow the violation of a 
treaty of arbitration, if adopted. What 
I say, however, is, if you make a treaty 
with another country, binding it to refer 
any dispute to arbitration, and if that 
country violates that treaty, when the 
dispute arises, then you will place it in 
a worse position before the world—you 
will place it in so infamous a position, 
that I doubt if any country would enter 
into war on such bad grounds as that 
country must occupy. 

I may be told that this is not the time 
to bring forward such a motion. I never 
knew a good motion brought forward in 
a bad season. But it may be said, that 
the time is badly chosen, because there 
are wars on the Continent now. I quite 
disagree to that. Is there anything in 
those wars so inviting, that we should 
hesitate before we take precautions against 
their recurrence ? I should have thought, 
on the contrary, that what is taking place 
on the Continent is the very reason why 
we should take every precaution now. 
There were none of these wars, with the 
exception of that between Schleswig and 
Denmark, to which international treaties 
would apply ; because they are all either 
civil wars, or wars of insurrection, and 
rebellion. This war between Schleswig 
and Denmark was an instance of the very 
insignificant means by which you could 
produce widespread mischief in this com- I 


mercial age. Is there a case where the 
principle of arbitration, in the persons of 
first-rate historians or jurists, could be 
adopted with more advantage than in the 
case of Schleswig and Denmark ? It is 
difficult to see how the dispute is ever to 
be settled by going to war, for one party 
being stronger by land, and the other by 
sea, there may be no end of the conflict. 
But see what mischief this dispute has 
occasioned to others. The blockade of 
the Elbe, the great artery of the north of 
Europe, has shut out their supplies, not 
from Schleswig, but from Germany. It 
has interrupted the commerce of not 
merely a small Danish province, but the 
whole world. The people of Schleswig, 
who have comparatively no manufactures, 
are not punished, but your fellow-citizens 
in Manchester, your miners in North¬ 
umberland, and the wine-growers of the 
Gironde are punished. Mischief is done 
all over the world by this petty quarrel, 
which could be more properly settled by 
arbitration than by any other means. 
Let not people turn this matter into ridi¬ 
cule by saying that I want to make arbi¬ 
tration treaties with everybody — even 
Bornean pirates. Hon. Gentlemen may 
create a laugh by coupling together a 
Bornean pirate and a member of the 
Society of Friends. But I do not want 
to make treaties with Bornean pirates or 
the inhabitants of Timbuctoo. I shall 
be quite satisfied, as a beginning, if I see 
the noble Lord, or any one filling his 
place, trying to negotiate an arbitration 
treaty with the United States, or with 
France. But I should like to bind our¬ 
selves to the same principle with the 
weakest and smallest States. I should 
be as willing to see it done with Tuscany, 
Belgium, or Holland, as with France or 
America, because I am anxious to prove 
to the world that we are prepared to 
submit our misunderstandings, in all 
cases, to a purer and more just arbitra¬ 
ment than that of brute force. Whilst I 
do not agree with those who are in favour 
of a Congress of nations, I do think that 
if the larger and more civilised Powers 
were to enter into treaties of this kind, 
their decisions would become precedents, 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 12, 1849. 


398 

and you would in this way, in the course 
of time, establish a kind of common law 
amongst nations, which would save the 
time and trouble of arbitration in each 
individual case. 

I do not anticipate any sudden or great 
change in the character of mankind, nor 
do I expect a complete extinction of 
those passions which form part of our 
nature. But I do not think there is any¬ 
thing very irrational in expecting that 
nations may see that the present system 
of settling disputes is barbarous, demor¬ 
alising, and unjust; that it wars against 
the best interests of society, and that it 
ought to give place to a mode more 
consonant with the dictates of reason 
and humanity. I do not see anything in 
the present state of European society to 
prevent us from discussing this matter, 
and hoping that it may be brought to a 
satisfactory conclusion. I have abstained 
from dwelling on those topics which 
may excite the feelings of hon. Gentle¬ 
men opposite. I have not entered into 
the horrors of war, or the manifold evils 
to which it gives rise. I will, on the 
present occasion, content myself with the 
description of it byjeremy Bentham, who 
calls it ‘mischief on the largest scale.’ 

I will leave these topics, and that mode 
of handling the question, to others who 
may discuss the matter, either here or 
elsewhere. I have stated clearly, ex¬ 
plicitly, and in a matter-of-fact manner, I 


what my object is, in order that it may 
not be misunderstood. I have shown 
examples in which this plan has been 
adopted. All I want is, that we should 
enter into mutual engagements with 
other countries, binding ourselves and 
them, in all future cases of dispute which 
cannot be otherwise arranged, to refer 
the matter to arbitration. No possible 
harm can arise from the failure of my 
plan. The worst that can be said of it 
is, that it will not effect its object—that 
of averting war. We shall then remain 
in that unsatisfactory state in which we 
now find ourselves. I put it to any 
person having a desire to avert war, 
whether, when he sees that the adoption 
of this plan can do no harm, it is not 
just and wise to try whether it may not 
effect good. As it is likely to have that 
effect in the opinion of nearly 200,000 
petitioners to this House—as that is the 
opinion declared by 150 public meetings 
in this country—as it is the opinion ex¬ 
pressed by members of several town 
councils who calmly discussed this mat¬ 
ter in their large boroughs—as it is the 
opinion of so many of your reflecting 
and intelligent fellow-citizens—will you 
refuse to them, under the circumstances I 
have stated, this, the only mode that has 
been propounded, of affording a guar¬ 
antee against war, which we all equally 
deprecate ? 




FOREIGN POLICY. 

ii. 

LONDON, OCTOBER 8, 1849. 


[The Austrian Government had in the autumn of 1849 advertised in the London papers 
for subscriptions to a loan of 71,000,000 florins (7,100,000/.). The loan was rendered 
necessary in consequence of the condition in which the Austrian finances had been 
placed by the Hungarian revolt, and the measures adopted to put it down. Mr. Cobden 
called public attention to the facts, and at a meeting at the London Tavern made the 
following Speech on this resolution :—‘ That the Government of Austria, having pro¬ 
posed to raise a loan in foreign countries, capitalists and men of business are thereby 
invited to investigate the financial position of the said Government, and the proba¬ 
bility of its repaying the loan thus proposed to be contracted ; and that it is the opinion 
of this meeting that no valid security is tendered, or can be offered, in the present state 
of the Austrian Government, which would justify prudent men in taking any part of 
the said loan.’] 


It has been my privilege to address 
my fellow-countrymen probably as often, 
and in as great a variety of places, as 
any man now living; but I will say, with 
unfeigned confidence, that there never 
was an occasion when I stood before 
my countrymen on more solid and firm 
grounds of justice, of humanity, and of 
sound political economy, than I do at 
this moment. Objections have been 
taken to the course I have pursued in 
this matter, on the ground that I am not 
adhering to sound principles of politi¬ 
cal economy. I suppose it was thought 
that this was the most vulnerable point 
on which one who had said so much 
on the subject of Free Trade could be 
assailed. I will begin, then, with that 
which the enemy considers his strong 
ground of attack; and I say, that as I 
have gone through thelength and breadth 
of this country, with Adam Smith in my 
hand, to advocate the principles of Free 
Trade, so I can stand here, supported 


by the same great authority, to denounce 
—not merely for its inherent waste of 
national wealth, not only because it an¬ 
ticipates income and consumes capital, 
but also on the ground of injustice to 
posterity, in entailing upon the heirs of 
this generation a debt which it has no 
right to call upon them to pay—the loans 
we have this day met to consider. But, 
whilst I come here to denounce as un¬ 
just, to expose as wasteful, and to de¬ 
monstrate to be impolitic, the system 
of lending money for the purposes for 
which Austria comes to borrow, I con¬ 
fine myself to this. I do not purpose to 
recommend that we should go to Parlia¬ 
ment for a law to prohibit men from 
lending money, if it be their wish to do 
so. All I say is, that I come here to 
try, in a humble way, to do that which 
I have done for Free Trade—to po¬ 
pularise to the people of this country, 
and of the Continent, those arguments 
with which Adam Smith, David Hume, 




400 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 8, 


Ricardo, and every man who has written 
on this subject, have demonstrated the 
funding system to be injurious to man¬ 
kind, and unjust in principle. I come 
here to try to show to our fellow-coun¬ 
trymen, that they will act upon a wrong 
principle, and do injury to society, by 
lending the proceeds of their hard and 
industrious labour to the Austrian Go¬ 
vernment, to be expended in that bottom¬ 
less gulf of waste—armies and standing 
armaments. I come here to show the 
impolicy, on general principles, of taking 
such a course. But in this particular 
instance I am not going to confine myself 
to the general principle. I appeal to 
every individual who thinks of lending 
money to the Austrian Government, to 
pause before he does so; because he is 
going to intrust his money to a Power 
that has thrice committed an act of bank¬ 
ruptcy. [An observation was here made 
by an individual which led to cries of 
‘Turn him out,’ and some confusion 
ensued.] Mr. Cobden proceeded :— 
Turn nobody out. If he be a man who 
has subscribed to this loan, he can only 
have paid ten per cent, as a deposit, and, 
if you will only keep him here, before I 
have done I will satisfy him that it will be 
for his interest to forfeit the deposit. I 
will satisfy him that it will be to his inter¬ 
est to forfeit his ten per cent, and to pay 
no more. 

But to resume. I say that the Austrian 
Government has three times committed 
acts of bankruptcy, under circumstances 
of great and scandalous injustice, for, 
while personal interests—Imperial in¬ 
terests—have been well taken care of, the 
general public—the subscribers to the 
loans — have been basely sacrificed. 
Now, what has been the progress of 
Austrian finance since the great war? 
When the Austrian Government come 
to us to borrow money, the least they 
can do is, through their agents, Messrs. 
Hope and Co., to give us a bond fide, 
detailed, and candid debtor and creditor 
statement of their accounts; but we have 
no such statement from that Government. 
In the absence of such a detailed and 
official statement, then, we are bound to 


| have recourse to the best private author¬ 
ities we can find. I will take a work of 
standard reputation, which was published 
in 1840, under the title of ‘ Austria and 
its Future,’ a work well known to be 
from the pen of Baron Andrian, who, 
last year, ably filled the office of Am¬ 
bassador from the Central German 
Power to the British Court, and a work 
of standard authority on such matters. 
After a precisely detailed statement of 
all the various shuffling manoeuvres— 
borrowing, loaning, lotteries, and every 
possible device—with which the Austrian 
Government had been mystifying its 
finance for twenty-five years—from 1815 
to 1840—the author sums up by saying 
that, from 1815 down to 1840, a period 
of profound peace, the Austrian Govern¬ 
ment has doubled its debt in nominal 
value, but quadrupled its debt in real 
amount, and has increased the interest 
for which it is liable tenfold. The same 
work was republished, in 1846, by 
the same author, with an additional 
volume ; and the author tells us that, at 
that time, not one word had been said 
to disprove his statements respecting 
Austrian finance. He adds, that since 
the period when his book was first 
published, 8,000,000/. more have been 
added to the national debt of Austria; 
and it therefore comes to this—that from 
1815 to 1847 the Austrian Government, 
during a period of profound peace, with¬ 
out a foreign war on its hands during 
the whole of that time, has gone on, 
every year, spending more than its in¬ 
come, and constantly adding to the 
amount of its national debt. Then, in 
1848, whilst Austria had from 300,000 
to 400,000 men under arms—the produce 
of all this wasteful expenditure—came 
that revolutionary epidemic, which 
passed over the Continent, and the 
Government of Austria fell like a house 
of cards, notwithstanding the bayonets 
by which it was supported, and, from 
that time to this, the Austrian empire 
has been in a state of complete anarchy 
and disorder. Vienna, Pesth, Venice, 
Milan, Prague—every capital of the 
empire but Inspruch—have been bom- 



FOREIGN POLICY. II. 


1849. 

barded by the forces of the Austrian 
Government, or have been in a state of 
siege ; we have seen the Bank suspend¬ 
ing specie payments, the Government 
prohibiting the exportation of the pre¬ 
cious metals, to prevent the foreign 
creditor from being honestly paid his 
due ; and during all this anarchy and 
confusion, both political and financial, 
the Austrian Government has expended, 
at least, double the amount of its annual 
income. I should be afraid to state what 
I have heard persons of good authority 
say is the amount of the floating debt, 
now standing over, in the Austrian 
empire ; but I am within the mark when 
I say, that there is at least 20,000,000/. 
sterling held over in Austria as the result 
of the last eighteen months’ social, po¬ 
litical, and financial anarchy. And it 
is to enable the Austrian Government to 
redeem a part of that enormous floating 
debt that they now have the audacity— 
for I cannot call it by any other name— 
to come before the people of Western 
Europe, and ask the honest Dutchman, 
the industrious Englishman, the pains¬ 
taking, saving Swiss, or Frenchman— 
they do not care who it is—out of their 
hai'd earnings, to lend them money— 
that is, to throw it into a bottomless pit 
of waste and extravagance. 

Now, I ask you, if an individual has 
committed acts of bankruptcy threetimes, 
is he not very likely to commit such an 
act again, if it answers his purpose? 
Well, the Austrian Government has every 
motive to declare itself bankrupt again, 
because it is utterly impossible that, in 
any other way, they can recover from 
their financial embarrassment. They 
never can pay their debt. They may 
now borrow 7,000,000/. sterling, as a 
means of paying off a fraction of the debt 
they have already incurred, and that 
7,000,000/. they are asking for on rather 
humiliating terms; but I warn all men, 
whether in this country or abroad, that 
this is only the beginning of borrowing, 
on the part of the Austrian Government. 
If their finances are to be retrieved by 
borrowing, this is but a drop in the ocean 
to what they must borrow afterwards; 


41)1 

and you must bear in mind, that they 
who lend their money first will be 
swamped and sacrificed to those who 
lend afterwards, and with whom the 
Government will have to submit to harder 
bargains. When I state these facts, I 
do not mention them for the information 
of Messrs. Hope and Co., or any other 
large banking company, in London, 
Amsterdam, Antwerp, or Vienna. j 
perfectly understand, though not a far¬ 
thing of this Austrian loan should be re¬ 
paid—though the Government shall never 
redeem a farthing of it—that it may still 
be a very profitable thing to those agents 
and bankers, who raise the money through 
their connections and customers. I hold 
in my hand the advertisement put forth 
by the Austrian Government in our 
papers, and this is my justification for 
coming here to-day. We have not met 
to talk over Austrian finances and affairs, 
to uncover their sore places, and to tell 
all these hard truths, without having 
been invited to it. Here is an advertise¬ 
ment, put into our papers, at the expense, 
I suppose, of the Austrian Government, 
inviting everybody to subscribe to the 
loan. The advertisers are so accommo¬ 
dating, that, in order that nobody may 
be excluded, they say that bonds will be 
issued for sums as low as 100 florins, or 
10/. It is said that the pith of a lady’s 
letter is to be found in the postscript, 
and I entreat the attention of all persons, 
whether here, in Holland, or in Germany 
—(for I am not merely speaking to a few 
of my countrymen in this room, but what 
I say will be read in Holland, in Ger¬ 
many, and in France)—to the last line 
of this advertisement. It runs thus:— 
‘ Any subscriber to a higher amount than 
25,000 florins, that is, 2,500/., or any 
person who collects subscriptions to 
an amount surpassing that sum, will 
receive a commission of X per cent, 
on the amount of the payments made.’ 
Now, I ask you, if any shopkeeper or 
huckster in London put an advertisement 
outside his window,—‘Anybody who 
brings a customer to my shop, who may 
purchase 5-r. worth of potatoes or vegeta¬ 
bles, shall have a commission of 2 d. on 



402 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 8, 


that amount,’ would you not pass by on 
the other side, and take especial care to 
have no dealings at his shop ? Would 
you not naturally say to yourselves, ‘ If 
that man sold a good article, if he was 
true to his word in his dealings, if he 
never cheated anybody, if he had not 
committed foul acts of bankruptcy, or, 
probably, of robbery, he would not be 
under the necessity of offering bribes to 
obtain customers ? ’ 

I wish you, and those small capitalists 
who are invited to put their 10L into this 
raffle, where there are no prizes, to bear 
in mind, that we do not think that our 
meeting will convert any of those bankers, 
or agents, or brokers, whether in Am¬ 
sterdam or Vienna, who have been 
called on to find out unwary people, 
and get them to subscribe their 25,000 
florins. We never expected to convert 
them, or to meet them on this platform. 
We expect that all those organs of the 
press, which are under the influence of 
these parties,—and they are not a few, 
—we expect that they will not meet what 
I now say by argument, but they will do 
what they are bid to do and to say, and 
will abuse me well. [Here a person 
exclaimed that ‘ there were 10,000 people 
outside, who wanted to get in.’] Mr. 
Cobden continued :—I am glad to hear 
that there are so many assembled outside, 
but they must be content with reading in 
the newspapers to-morrow what we are 
now saying. It is to those small capital¬ 
ists, of whom I was speaking, —the un¬ 
wary, the incautious, and the uninform¬ 
ed class,-—that I wish to speak the voice 
of warning ; and, if they will listen to 
me, I will give them the opportunity of 
testingthe opinion of the great capitalists, 
with respect to this loan. Messrs. Hope 
and Co., of Amsterdam, the agents for 
the loan, have offered it on such terms 
as, if carried out, would pay 5 1. 14s. per 
cent, interest. Now, I would advise 
some canny Dutchman to go to the 
counting-house of Messrs. Hope and 
Co., and say this to them,—‘You have 
offered to me to take part in a loan, by 
which I shall get 5 /• 14J. interest per 
cent.; that is, nearly twice as much in¬ 


terest as we get in Amsterdam, in an 
ordinary way ; I should be content with 
4 per cent, interest, if it were secure ; I 
propose to take 1,000/. of your loan; 
and I will be content to receive 4 per 
cent, interest and give you the remain¬ 
ing 1 /. 14c., if you will endorse my bond, 
as a guarantee for the payment.’ No, 
no ; the firm are not likely to be caught 
in that way, you may depend upon it. I 
was talking the other day to a gentle¬ 
man in Lombard-street—one of the most 
experienced, sagacious, and able men in 
that quarter, which is not renowned for 
gullible people—and I asked him for his 
opinion upon this loan. Bear in mind, 
he is a man more consulted by the Go¬ 
vernment, and Committees of the House 
of Commons, on such matters, than any 
one else on the east of Temple-bar. He 
replied, ‘ I do not believe that 200,000/. 
will be raised in all Lombard-street, and 
certainly not one shilling’s worth will be 
taken to hold.’ No, the capitalists will 
not take it to hold. If they subscribe, 
they will take the scrip at 10 per cent, 
deposit, in the hope of transferring it, 
at a premium, to some one, who will 
lose his money, not being so well in¬ 
formed of the valueless character of the 
security. It is on that class that the loss 
will fall. I knew myself, many years 
ago, when resident in the City, a man 
who worked as a porter, on weekly 
wages—his family and himself being 
reduced to that state that they had no 
other earthly dependence—and yet, that 
man had Spanish bonds, to the nominal 
amount of more than 2,000/. in his pocket, 
which he had purchased when in better 
circumstances. They were not worth 
more than waste paper; but I never 
heard that the great houses that contract¬ 
ed that loan were ruined by it. No, it 
passed through their hands, and came 
into the hands of poor men, like this 
porter, who had no experience and 
knowledge in such matters ; and it is 
to protect such poor men that I now 
utter the voice of warning. 

Now, I ask, when it is known that 
every word I say is strictly within moder¬ 
ation, and the bounds of truth,—when 




FOREIGN POLICY. II. 


403 


1849. 

there is not a man in Lombard-street 
but would endorse every word I utter as 
to the valueless character of this loan,— 
is it not something hateful, humiliating, 
and disgusting, that we have leading 
organs of the press which lend their in¬ 
fluence, not to throw a shield over the 
unwary and innocent, but to serve the 
purpose of those who have cunning and 
ability to protect themselves ? They do 
not come out—that is why I blame them 
—in their leading articles, and tell the 
people, with the authority of their own 
pen, that Austria is trustworthy— that 
this loan is a good investment. No; 
they do not do anything of the kind ; 
but they do their work in the best way 
they can,—by inuendo, by indirect in¬ 
fluence, and by trying all they can to 
traduce the men who come forward and 
tell the truth in this matter. When I 
take up a public question of this sort, 
and find, instead of my arguments being 
refuted, that I am personally attacked, I 
consider it the triumph of my cause. 
But the fact is, that these are not the 
only parties that look with disfavour on 
this meeting to-day. I have no hesita¬ 
tion in saying that there is not a Govern¬ 
ment in Europe that is not frowning upon 
this meeting. It is not merely Austria 
that disapproves of the meeting. I do 
not believe that our Government likes it. 
I say so much, because I see that the 
organs of the press, especially under the 
influence of the Government, and one, 
in particular, established as the advocate, 
par excellence , of the sound principles of 
political economy, enounced by Adam 
Smith, are forward in condemning this 
meeting. I consider this as the germ of 
a great movement, which will lay bare 
the pretensions of every Government 
that comes before the world for a loan ; 
and will show the bankrupt state—if it 
be bankrupt—of the exchequer of their 
country; and will hold up to execration 
the objects for which men attempt to 
obtain such loans. 

I consider this almost as much a Rus¬ 
sian as an Austrian loan. I do not 
separate the two countries. You remem¬ 
ber when I spoke before, in this place, 


strongly on the subject of the Russian 
finances. I come here now to repeat 
every word I then uttered. I claim no 
great merit for myself in presuming to 
understand more properly the state of 
Russian finances than many others. It is 
from accident that I have had opportuni¬ 
ties—and few men, probably not six men 
in England, have had my opportunities— 
of investigating and ascertaining, upon 
the best and safest authority, on the spot, 
where alone you can properly understand 
the matter, what actually is the state of 
the resources of Russia; and I say, 
again, that the Russian Government, in 
the matter of finance, is nothing more nor 
less than a gigantic imposture. There 
are men in Western Europe who know 
what I say to be true, and yet lend 
themselves to spread an opposite delu¬ 
sion. You have seen in the newspapers, 
that the Government of Russia have 
taken 2,000,000/. of this Austrian loan, 
and that the Russian Government was 
going to subscribe to the Pope’s loan, and 
going to lend the Archduke of Tuscany 
a round sum. This is systematically 
done. These paragraphs are put into the 
papers by men employed by that cunning 
Government, to throw dust in the eyes 
of people. That Government last year 
spent more than its income, and this 
year its deficit is enormous. Russia 
has not paid the expenses of the Hunga¬ 
rian campaign ; it has made forced con¬ 
tributions, taking the taxes in advance, 
in the territories through which the troops 
moved, and has given Treasury receipts ; 
and at this moment the Russian Govern¬ 
ment has no alternative but to increase 
its paper money, and begin an act of 
bankruptcy again, or to come to Western 
Europe for a loan. When she comes 
here, let her well understand that we will 
be here also. 

It is not on mere economical grounds, 
or on grounds of self-interest alone, that 
I oppose these loans; I come here to 
oppose the very principle on which they 
are founded. What is this money want¬ 
ed for? Austria, with her barbarous 
consort, has been engaged in a cruel 
and remorseless war ; and the Austrian 




404 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 8, 1849. 


Government comes now, and stretches 
forth its bloodstained hand to honest 
Dutchmen and Englishmen, and asks 
them to furnish the price of the devastation 
which has been committed. For there is 
little difference whether the money sub¬ 
scribed to this loan be furnished a little 
before or after. The money has been 
raised for the war by forced contributions 
and compulsory loans, for which Treasury 
receipts have been given, in the confid¬ 
ent expectation that this loan would be 
raised to pay them off. I consider that 
this is on principle most unjust and inde¬ 
fensible. Happily, by the ordinance of 
Divine Providence, war is in its nature 
self-destroying; and if a country en¬ 
gaged in hostilities were left to itself, 
war must have a speedy termination. 
But this system of foreign loans for war¬ 
like purposes, by which England, Hol¬ 
land, Germany, and France are invited 
to pay for the arms, clothing, and food 
of the belligerents, is a system calculated 
almost to perpetuate the horrors of war ; 
and they who lend money for these pur¬ 
poses are destitute of any one excuse, by 


which men try to justify to their own 
consciences the resort to the sword. 
They cannot plead patriotism, self-de¬ 
fence, or even anger, or the lust of mili¬ 
tary glory. No ; but they sit down 
coolly to calculate the chances to them¬ 
selves of profit or loss, in a game in 
which the lives of human beings are at 
stake. They have not even the pleasure 
— the savage and brutal gratification, 
which ancient and pagan people had, 
when they paid for a seat in the amphi¬ 
theatre, to witness the bloody combats 
of gladiators in the arena. 

I wish, in conclusion, that it should be 
borne in mind by capitalists everywhere, 
that these are times when it behoves 
them to remember that property has its 
duties as well as its rights : I exhort the 
friends of peace, and advocates of disar¬ 
mament, throughout the civilised world, 
to exert themselves to spread a sounder 
morality on this question of war loans, 
and to impress upon the capitalists of 
the world, that they who forget their 
duties are running the risk of endanger¬ 
ing their rights. 





FOREIGN POLICY, 
in. 


LONDON, JANUARY 18, 1850. 


[The Russian Government was attempting, at the beginning of the year 1850, to nego¬ 
tiate a loan, ostensibly for the construction of a railway from St. Petersburg to Moscow. 
There was reason to believe that the true object of this financial operation was to 
cover the deficit occasioned in the Russian finances by its armed intervention in 
Hungary. A meeting was called at the London Tavern to protest against this loan, 
and Mr. Cobden moved the first resolution at the meeting in the following words :— 
' That the Government of Russia having proposed to raise in this country a loan oi 
five millions and a half, professedly for the purpose of completing a railroad from St. 
Petersburg to Moscow, but really to replenish the Imperial exchequer, exhausted by 
the expenses of the war in Hungary, this meeting is of opinion that to lend money to 
the Emperor of Russia for such an object would virtually be to sanction the deeds of 
violence and blood committed by him in Hungary, and to furnish him with the tempt¬ 
ation and the means for carrying on future schemes of aggression and conquest.'] 


I CONGRATULATF the Peace Society 
and the friends of peace in this country, 
that the Emperor of Russia has been 
obliged—unconsciously been obliged, as 
we must as a matter of courtesy suppose 
—to affix his name to a document which 
is not true, in order to obtain a loan of 
five and a half millions in this country. 
I say that that document which has been 
signed by the Emperor of Russia con¬ 
tains an untruth. I know it to be un¬ 
true, and it is known to everybody in 
St. Petersburg to be untrue. But I accept 
the untruth as the highest tribute that 
could possibly be paid to the moral power 
of the Peace party in this country. 

I was saying that the pretence put 
forth by the Emperor of Russia, that 
he requires this money to complete the 
railroad from Moscow to St. Petersburg, 
is unfounded in truth. I was at St. 
Petersburg about two years ago, and at 
that time the rolling stock of that railway 
was furnished. They had then one hun¬ 


dred locomotives; and I travelled on a 
portion of the line by means of one of 
them. They had one thousand waggons 
and carriages ; and I was told all the 
iron was upon the ground and paid for, 
but that some part of the embankments 
remained unfinished; and looking at the 
martial tendencies of the Emperor of 
Russia, I do not think it likely that those 
embankments will be completed for ten 
years to come, at least; forjudging from 
his conduct hitherto, we must expect that 
he will continue to spend his money as 
fast as he gets it, like a great overgrown 
colossal baby, on his soldiers rather 
than on those substantial improvements 
which alone can add to the civilisation, 
the power, and the happiness of his 
country. 

But why do I argue this point? No¬ 
body believes that the money is wanted 
by Russia for the railroads. I take it 
that everybody assumes to the contrary. 
But I will convict the Russian Govern- 



406 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. iB, 


ment of falsehood in this respect from 
their own ukase. They say they want 
the money within six months. Whoever 
heard of five and a half millions being 
required for making a railroad in six 
months ? Some of you here, unhappily, 
no doubt, have had some experience in 
railway calls, but did you ever know 
them come from any one board of di¬ 
rectors so thick and fast as they are to 
come from the Emperor of Russia? 20/. 
two days after allotment, 10/. on the 
15 th of February, 10/. on the 15 th of 
March, 10/. on the 15th of April, 10/. 
on the 15th of May, and 10/. on the 
15th of June, and the remainder on the 
15th of July next! Why, here are railway 
calls for one railway alone at the rate of 
nearly one million a month, and that in 
a country where, up to the month of 
March, no work can be done in the way 
of forming embankments, and conse¬ 
quently this money is wanted for the 
purpose of being expended in excavating 
and embanking in the months of April, 
May, June, and July. I really pity the 
mendicant Czar who is obliged to come 
to us with such a story. Is it not humi¬ 
liating ? And then, after putting forward 
this pretence that the money is wanted 
for arailroad, after beginning his imperial 
ukase by saying what was not the truth 
—-I must in courtesy presume that he 
did not know that it was not the truth— 
he winds up at last (as though doubting 
whether or not he would be believed) in 
the fifth paragraph by promising that 
the account of the sums derived from 
this loan shall be kept as the former 
loans raised for this same railroad were 
kept—distinct from all other items of 
the State revenue and expenditure. He 
wants here to open the door if possible 
even wide enough for the most scrupulous 
Quaker to subscribe to his loan. He 
tells you not only that the money is not 
wanted for war or for paying soldiers, 
but that it is entirely for the construction 
of the railroad, and as a proof that it is 
so, he says he will give separate accounts 
of the manner in which it is expended. 
If he does so, all-I can say is, that it is 
what he never did before. 


I have been subjected to the reiterated 
charge that I am not consistent with 
my own principles, the principles of 
Free Trade, when I come here to de¬ 
nounce this loan, and people have asked 
— 1 Why won’t you let us lend our 
money in the dearest market, and borrow 
in the cheapest ? Why not have free 
trade in money as well as in everything 
else?’ I have no objection to people 
investing their money, if they like to do 
so, but I claim the right, as a free man 
in a free country, to meet my fellow- 
citizens in public assembly like the pre¬ 
sent, to try and warn the unwary against 
being deceived by those agents and 
moneymongers in the city of London 
who will endeavour to palm off their 
bad securities on us if they can. If 
they can succeed in spite of our warning, 
and I am not going to coerce them or 
to dictate to them, we shall have done 
our duty in giving this warning in time ; 
and those who do not follow our advice 
now will, perhaps, by-and-by, wish they 
had done so. That, however, is their 
business, not mine. 

It is asked of me this morning by a 
leading journal, whether I oppose this 
loan on the ground of its immorality or 
on the ground of its being unsafe ? I 
say I oppose it on both grounds ; for, 
in my opinion, whatever is immoral is 
unsafe. But, apart altogether from these 
grounds of its inherent immorality and 
insecurity, I stand here as a citizen of 
this country and as a citizen of the 
world, to denounce the whole character 
of this transaction as injurious to the 
best interests of society. I will take 
first the politico-economical view of the 
question, because it is supposed that on 
this question I am particularly weak in 
that direction. Now, I take my stand 
on one of the strongest grounds in 
stating that Adam Smith and other 
great authorities on political economy 
are opposed to the very principle of 
such loans. What is this money wanted 
for ? It is to be wasted. It is to go 
to defray the expense of maintaining 
standing armies, or to pay the expenses 
of the atrocious war in Hungary. Then 





1850. 


FOREIGN POLICY. III. 


407 


what does it amount to ? It is so much 
capital abstracted from England and 
handed over to another country to be 
wasted ; it alienates from the labouring 
population of this country a part of the 
means by which it is employed, and by 
which it is to live. I say that every 
loan advanced to a foreign Power to be 
expended in armaments, or for carrying 
on war with other countries, is as much 
money wasted and destroyed for all the 
purposes of reproduction as if it were 
carried out into the middle of the At¬ 
lantic and there sunk in the sea. And 
I make no distinction whether the in¬ 
terest be paid or not—for if it be paid 
by the Emperor of Russia, it is not paid 
out of the proceeds of the capital lent— 
it is not paid by the capital itself being 
invested in reproductive employment— 
but it is extorted from the labour, the 
industry, and the wretchedness of his 
people, who have to pay the interest of 
that capital which has not only not 
been employed in reproductive labour, 
or even thrown into the ocean, but far 
worse, in obstructing industry, in de¬ 
vastating fair and fruitful lands, and in 
suppressing freedom. I say, then, I 
stand here as a political economist to 
denounce every transaction such as this 
as injurious to every class of the com¬ 
munity, from the highest to the lowest, 
because it stops employment, impedes 
industry, and withdraws from us the 
very sources of profitable labour. There¬ 
fore, I say, it must injure every one 
more or less, from the Government 
itself down to the humblest mechanic 
or farm labourer who depends on his 
weekly wages for his subsistence. But 
I stand here also to denounce this loan 
as a politician, as a member of society, 
and as a taxpayer. For what is the 
object of this loan ? It is to enable the 
Emperor of Russia to maintain an 
enormous standing army; and what is 
the consequence? Why, that every 
other country in Europe is obliged to 
keep up an enormous armament also. 
What say the statesmen of France? 
They say, ‘We are obliged to keep 
500,000 armed men because Russia 


keeps 800,000; ’ and we are here in 
England accustomed to cite the hostile 
position of Russia, as a reason why we 
keep our enormous fleet. I should not 
be surprised if, in the very next session, 
when I bring forward a motion asking 
to reduce our armaments, you find, 
what I have before found, this very 
example of the Russian fleet cited as a 
reason why we cannot reduce our navy. 

What has been very recently the 
attitude and position of Russia as re¬ 
gards this country ? Have we not had 
our fleet — a fleet maintained in the 
Mediterranean at an enormous expense, 
by you the taxpayers of this country— 
have we not had it sailing to the Darda¬ 
nelles ; and have we not had constant 
talk of a collision between Russia and 
this country on the subject of Turkey ? 
Why, it is the acknowledged and tra¬ 
ditional policy of this country—I do not 
say a word as to the wisdom of that 
policy—that we are to defend Turkey 
against all comers, and to maintain, at 
all hazards, the integrity of that empire 
against the aggressions of foreign Powers. 
When we speak of foreign Powers, we 
mean only Russia; and it is the common 
talk with every one who knows anything 
of Continental affairs, that in the spring 
Russia means to attack Turkey in her 
Danubian provinces, in which case the 
taxpayers of this country may be called 
upon to equip fleets, which Russia will 
combat with the means borrowed from 
yourselves. 

We read in the history of Holland, 
that on one occasion when a Dutch 
town was besieged, its merchants sold 
sulphur to the enemy with which to 
make gunpowder to fire on themselves. 
When we read this we look on the Dutch 
as a mercenary people, who had no idea 
of patriotism or national dignity; yet 
what shall we say of England, if we 
have to record that, in the year 1850, 
there were found men in London ready 
to endorse the desperate wickedness of 
Russia by lending her money to continue 
the career of violence she has hitherto 
maintained ? I oppose this loan then on 
grounds totally apart from the abstract 





SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


jan. 18, 


408 

principles of morality or any consider¬ 
ation as to the nature of the security 
offered. I, as a politician, a citizen, and 
a taxpayer, have, in common with you 
all, a right to protest against transactions 
of this kind whencesoever they come, or 
by whomsoever contracted. But I de¬ 
nounce also the morality of this loan. 
We have latterly had a strange doctrine, 
half hinted, half expressed, but not very 
confidently broached, that you must not 
question what a man does with his 
money ; that you must only inquire how 
much per cent, is to be obtained, and 
that if the interest be five instead of 
four per cent, that is quite sufficient to 
sanctify the transaction. That is the 
doctrine I hear put forth in the name of 
my fellow-citizens. If it be really their 
doctrine, I can only say that the Emperor 
of Russia has given them credit for a 
much higher standard of morality than 
they possess. He was afraid to avow 
his real objects. He was obliged by his 
council to tell a fib, by asking the citizens 
of London to lend him money for rail¬ 
way purposes, instead of war. He did 
not know his men, he took too high an 
estimate of their morality, for they now 
propose unblushingly to lend him money, 
simply because he proposes to give them 
five per cent, interest instead of four. 

Now, what is this money wanted for? 
Simply and solely to make up the arrears 
caused by the exhaustion of the Hun¬ 
garian war. I am not in the habit of 
boasting at public meetings of what I 
may have done on former occasions, but 
if I were a boaster I should exult that 
the assertions I made on this spot in 
June last, and which have been subjected 
to so much sarcasm from foes and friends 
—I should, I say, feel some exultation 
that this poverty-stricken Czar has been 
obliged to come forward and verify every 
word I then said. What has become of 
the two millions we are told the Emperor 
had subscribed to the Austrian loan? 
What has become of the 500,000/. he 
was going to advance to the Pope, or 
the half-million he was going to bestow 
in his generosity on the Grand Duke of 
Tuscany? Oh, he ought to pay his 


scribes well in Western Europe, who 
have told so many lies for him. He 
ought to pay them well, seeing that 
they have been subjected to this full 
refutation of all they have said on his 
behalf at the hands of the Czar himself. 
If 1 had been employed to write up the 
wealth, power, and riches of a man who 
six months after was obliged to come 
before the citizens of London and sign 
his name to such a humiliating document 
as this imperial ukase, I should expect 
to be exceedingly well paid for the loss 
of character I had sustained. 

Well, I stand here to repeat the very 
words I uttered twice on this platform at 
times when few would believe me. Isay 
that the Russian Government in matters 
of finance has been for years—success¬ 
fully, until now the bubble has burst— 
the most gigantic imposture in Europe. 
I use the words, as I do every word I say 
at a public meeting, advisedly. I have 
used them before, and, after due investi¬ 
gation, I come here to repeat them. I 
say that this money is wanted for the 
purpose of sustaining the ambition, the 
sanguinary brutality of a despot, who 
has all the tastes of Peter the Great, and 
all the lust of conquest of Louis XIV., 
without the genius of the one or the 
wealth of the other ; and who would 
apply these principles to a great part 
of Europe, forgetting that this is the 
nineteenth instead of the seventeenth 
century; while utterly wanting, not 
merely the ability which would enable 
him to play such a part in history, but 
even the pecuniary means of enjoying the 
taste he possesses. 

What are the real objects of the Joan ? 
To make up deficiencies, to pay debts 
incurred by the Emperor of Russia while 
inflicting the most wanton injuries on 
Hungary. I said before that the expenses 
of that war were not paid, and now I 
will tell you how it was carried on. The 
army was moved from the interior, not 
at the expense of the military chest, for, 
as I told you, that chest was empty, and 
could not afford the means for transport¬ 
ing the Russian guards from St. Peters¬ 
burg to the confines of Hungary. The 



FOREIGN POLICY. III. 


409 


1850. 

way the Emperor managed it was this:— 
He sent out orders to all the landowners 
and farmers on the line of march, com¬ 
manding them to deposit at certain points 
indicated supplies of provisions'* and 
forage for the army. When the troops 
arrived, these provisions were taken 
possession of by the commissariat, and 
receipts were given, which receipts were 
to be received as cash in payment of 
taxes. So that when the taxes became 
due, and these receipts were handed in 
instead of money, it was found that the 
resources of the country had been all 
anticipated. The Government, then, 
has not the necessary means of carrying 
on its affairs. It is said that three mil¬ 
lions sterling of these Treasury notes have 
been issued, accompanied by a ukase 
avowing that they had been issued on 
account of the expenses of the Hungarian 
war. You will thus see that these sup¬ 
plies have been just so much provisions 
borrowed from the agriculturists of the 
country through which the army passed, 
and that the Government hopes to 
raise the money to pay for them by 
coming to England for a loan. And 
I say that this money, now about to 
be raised by way of loan, is just as 
much issued for cutting the throats of 
unoffending men in Hungary, devas¬ 
tating their villages, and outraging their 
women, as if it had been lent before a 
single soldier had begun his march. I 
say in this case, as I said in the case of 
Austria, that it makes no difference 
whether the money be lent a little before 
or a little after. The operations were 
based on the expectation of a loan from 
England, temporary expedients were 
used pending the realisation of that loan, 
and therefore, the English capitalists 
who advance their money will really be 
the abettors of the crimes and the cruelty 
of these Continental despots. 

Such are the purposes, and not rail¬ 
ways, for which this money is wanted ; 
and are we to be told that because the 
loan will pay five per cent, we are not 
to inquire into the purposes for which it 
is raised ? I can only say, that if a ma 
has a right to make the most he can of 


his money without any inquiry as to the 
means, there was a very worthy man used 
harshly the other day at the Old Bailey, 
by being sentenced to twelve months’ 
imprisonment and hard labour for only 
being the landlord of some infamous 
house out of which he realised a profit 
of twenty per cent. It is quite certain 
that this man may console himself in 
his confinement by thinking that his 
conduct was quite consistent with the 
new code of morality lately introduced 
into the City. But I do not reckon 
much on moral restraints. I think more 
may be done by appealing to motives of 
self-interest, and showing the risk there 
is in subscribing to these loans. Who 
would go and lend money to an irre¬ 
sponsible despot who never publishes 
any account of his income or expendi¬ 
ture ? I was looking through the Al¬ 
manack de Gotha , thinking I might find 
in it some traces of the income and 
expenditure of Russia. There was 
something more or less on that subject 
respecting every other state, but when I 
came to Russia I found these expressions: 

‘ We are sorry to be altogether without 
information as to the revenue or expendi¬ 
ture of Russia.’ Now, that is the invest¬ 
ment which is considered good in the 
city of London, simply because the 
borrower is a thousand miles off. How 
would a man, whose affairs were in such 
a state, but living in England, be re¬ 
ceived if he attempted to borrow money? 
How would you like it in the case of 
railways ? At present, although you 
have six-monthly meetings, auditors, 
secretaries, and the most complete sur¬ 
veillance, yet, by a strange inconsistency, 
one of the parties most diligent in abet¬ 
ting the Emperor of Russia is as anxiously 
abettinga Government audit tolook after 
the affairs of the railways. That is my 
first objection. We do not know what 
security we are to have for this money, 
which we know is wasted in unproductive 
employment. The next objection I 
make to this investment is, that you are 
lending money to a sovereign who founds 
his throne on the most combustible ele- 
j ments in all Europe. It is not irrelevant 




4io 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. l8, 


to the subject, if a sovereign comes here 
publicly to solicit money from the citizens 
of London, to say a word as to the 
prospects of his empire. The Emperor 
of Russia is the only sovereign in the 
world who rules over white slaves— 
twenty millions of serfs, who are bought 
and sold with the land. Do you think 
that a safe state of society in the present 
age ? The ideas and principles of free¬ 
dom have been marching from west to 
east for centuries, and slavery and serf¬ 
dom have disappeared before the spirit 
of the age, until progress was arrested 
on the confines of Russia. Do you think 
it will long stop there in these days of 
the steam-boat, the railway, and the 
telegraph ? On the contrary, you must 
expect that the serfs of Russia, being 
men, will prefer freedom to slavery ; 
and that, being ten to one of their 
masters, they will do in Russia as they 
have done in every other country in 
Europe, sooner or later assert their 
freedom. 

What security do you think you will 
have when the conflagration takes place 
in Russia, as it most probably will before 
many years have passed away?—because 
there never has been a case in which the 
emancipation of the serfs on a large scale 
was effected except through the agency 
of a revolution. What do you expect 
for your loan in the event of a revolution 
in Russia ? What will the people of 
Russia say of the men who lent their 
money to enable the Emperor to main¬ 
tain his tyranny over his serfs ? I say 
they will repudiate the debt. And, 
mind you, this custom of lending money 
by more refined states to barbarous 
Governments is a great means of per¬ 
petuating their tyranny. It gives them 
the power of governing in a way which 
they could not attempt if depending on 
their own people for the supplies. Go 
back to your own history—-to the time 
of the Plantagenets, when England 
obtained her liberties step by step. 
How ? Through the necessities and 
embarrassments of her kings. One got a 
loan for one franchise, another redeemed 
his jewels with another. That was the 


way in which the people of this country 
wrung liberty from their sovereigns, time 
after time, through their necessities; but 
if our ancient kings could have gone to 
the more solvent states of Italy, or the 
merchants of Venice, who stood towards 
England then pretty much as England 
stands towards Russia now, and could 
have borrowed five millions independ¬ 
ently of their people, when, think you, 
would the liberties of the people of 
England have been secured ? Where 
would have been the liberties of England 
under such circumstances ? And do you 
not think these things will pervade the 
minds of the masses in the east of 
Europe? Will they not ask you by what 
right you lend your money to any irre¬ 
sponsible despot, to enable him to per 
petuate their slavery? What answer can 
you give them ? Why, we got five per 
cent, for our money ! 

But there is another difficulty which 
I wish those who lend money to the 
Russian Government to bear in mind. 
We may not be strong enough in this 
room, although we represent pretty 
much public opinion out of it; we may 
not be strong enough, by this expression 
of opinion, to prevent people lending 
their money to Russia; but let them well 
understand that we, the taxpayers of 
England, who are no parties to the 
loan, will be no parties to the collection 
of their debts. Hitherto, there has 
been a sort of vague notion that if 
Governments fail in paying their debts 
to the English creditors, the powers of 
our Government may be brought to bear 
to enforce payment. There has been 
some correspondence between parties so 
interested and Lord Palmerston, and the 
noble Lord, although declining to inter¬ 
fere, yet reserved to himself the power 
of interfering if he thought proper. 
Now, I tell those who lend their money 
to the Russian Government, with an idea 
that they can make our Government the 
collector of their debts, that we have 
sufficient power to prevent them making 
our foreign Minister a bumbailiff. I 
warn those who lend their money to 
these bankrupt Governments, whether 



1850. 


FOREIGN POLICY. III. 


411 


in Europe or elsewhere, that we have 
the power—we, the taxpayers of this 
country—to prevent our Government 
sending, at the instance of these loan- 
mongers, ships of war or even diploma¬ 
tists to demand their money. On the 
contrary, I believe from my heart, that 
if the time should come—and most 
assuredly many in this room will live to 
see it, when not one farthing of this 
Russian loan will be paid—I believe that 
the enlightened opinion of this country 
will exult in the loss of the money, not 
from ill-will to the unfortunate people 
who hold the bonds, but from a belief 
that it is a righteous retribution, and that 
it will operate as a warning to prevent 
similar transactions in future. Are not 
these important points for consideration? 
Will ‘-any one deny that we have the 
power of preventing the Government 
putting the taxpayers to expense in 
collecting these loans ? Will it not make 
an important change in the prospects of 
these loanmongers, when it is known to 
the world that the taxpayers of England 
separate themselves altogether from the 
speculators in such matters ? 

There is another uncertainty which I 
wish to point out to the holders of these 
loans. Nobody can deny that there is a 
change of opinion on the whole subject 
of these foreign loans ; nobody can deny 
that we have put their promoters on the 
defensive, and that on the grounds of 
political economy, expediency, and jus¬ 
tice, they are gradually losing ground in 
public opinion. That is the work of six 
months. We have only begun our work. 
But is it not very clear, that as this 
opinion goes on gathering strength, and 
as the raising of loans becomes more 
difficult in this country, it will diminish 
the chances of the payment of the interest 
of loans already effected ? Let it be 
once known that there will be no more 
loans, and we shall soon have repudia¬ 
tion all over the world. Since the peace 
of 1815, the Governments of Europe 
have borrowed more money than they 
have paid interest to their creditors. 
That is to say, the kind and agreeable 
British public have been lending money 


out of one pocket, and receiving it back 
in interest in the other. But let them 
once see that there is no more chance of 
getting your cash, and you will see that 
a very slight chance remains of your 
dividends. But I do not come here with 
the idea of warning any of those capi¬ 
talists who take this loan as agents, or 
the speculators who write for it. We 
all understand how that is done now. A 
certain house engages—I’ll let you be¬ 
hind the scenes a little. A certain house 
undertakes to be the contractor. As 
soon as the contractor has settled his 
terms—and they do not always tell you 
the whole of the terms—he sends out 
circulars to his friends ; that is, those 
speculators whose names he has in his 
books, and who are accustomed to put 
down their names for a certain amount 
of these loans. These brokers, bankers, 
and speculators are all invited to put 
down their names as subscribers to the 
loan. They send in their names for 
50,000/., 30,000/., or 20,000/. And 
why? Because they expect to be able 
to redistribute these sums to their cus¬ 
tomers, their clients, and their acquaint¬ 
ances, at a profit—not with the view of 
holding the stock themselves. I venture 
to say, that not five per cent, of the loan 
which will be subscribed for up to Mon¬ 
day next will be taken by parties who 
really intend to hold it as a permanent 
investment. 

I came down this morning from the 
west end of the town in an omnibus, 
sitting opposite to a gentleman. As we 
were riding along he looked out of the 
window and saw a placard with the 
words, ‘ Great meeting on the Russian 
loan.’ He said to me, ‘Mr. Cobden is 
going to have a meeting, I believe.’ 

‘ Yes,’I said, ‘I believe he is.’ ‘It’s 
very odd,’ he observed, ‘ that he should 
presume to dictate to capitalists as to 
how they should lay out their money.’ 
‘Well,’ I said, ‘if he attempts to dictate, 
it is rather hard. But I suppose he 
allows you to do as you like.’ ‘ But,’ said 
he, ‘ he holds public meetings to de¬ 
nounce this loan ; yet I should not won¬ 
der if he would be very glad himself to 






472 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


have 20,000/. of it.’ I said, ‘ Have you 
taken any yourself?’ He replied, ‘I 
have—50,000/., and I intend to pay it 
all up.’ I then said to him, ‘ Would 
you like to leave that property to your 
children ? ’ ‘ No,’ he said, ‘ I don’t in¬ 

tend to keep it more than two years at 
the outside, and I hope to get a couple 
per cent, profit upon it. ’ 

Now it is with that view that that 
gentleman is going to pay up his calls— 
that is, if he thinks of doing so. That 
is not the ordinary case; they generally 
pay up one call, and then sell the stock 
at any profit which they can get upon 
it; and the loss of holding these securi¬ 
ties—I said it before, and I repeat it now 
—the loss falls upon individuals who 
were totally unconnected with the taking 
of the loan — tradesmen retired from 
business, widows and orphans, trustees 
and others who invest money in what 
they regard as a permanent security, in 
order to obtain the interest upon it. 
Well, now, I declare most solemnly, 
after looking into this subject of Russia, 
as I have done for the last eighteen years, 
that I would not give 25/. per cent, for 
the Russian Five per Cent. Stock, which 
is being dealt in to-day by the bulls and 
bears at 107—I would not take 100/. 
worth of it at that price for permanent 
investment, and with the view of leaving 
it as a part of the dependence of my 
children. We do not profess to come 
here to advise those brokers and capi¬ 
talists who originally take these loans ; 
we know that they always make money, 
even when other people lose. I ask you 
to go back to the loans which have been 
contracted—for instance, by the house 
of Messrs. Baring and Co. I ask you to 
inquire for yourselves how some of the 
loans which have been taken by that 
house have turned out in relation to the 
interests of those who have ultimately 
become the depositories of the bonds. 
The contractors did not perhaps lose by 
them ; but I get letters daily from per¬ 
sons who have had Spanish bonds, 
Guatemala bonds, Portuguese bonds, and 
the rest, describing the sorrowings and 
sufferings which they have experienced 


JAN. iS, 

as the result of having been entrapped 
into purchasing such bonds. 

I say, then, that in coming here to 
denounce this transaction, we do so in the 
interest of the unwary; we do so to guard 
against these transactions, men who have 
not had the same opportunity as some of 
us have had of investigating this matter. 
And if we can by this means place an 
obstacle in the way of these warlike and 
despotic sovereigns, when they are com¬ 
ing to raise money from the civilised 
industry of this country, in order that it 
may be expended in barbarous waste in 
Russia and other countries, I say that 
we shall have done society good service. 
I ask only for just so much confidence in 
what I say as I am entitled to in conse¬ 
quence of what I asserted before with re¬ 
gard to the state of the Russian finances. 
Take nothing for granted in reference to 
Russia. Systematic fraud and deception, 
and lying and misrepresentation, are the 
policy of the Government of that country. 
A great part of the very money which is 
now about to be loaned in this country 
will, I have no doubt, be spent in espion¬ 
age in Constantinople — in bribing em¬ 
ployes and functionaries there, and in 
bribing a portion of the press in Germany 
and in France. [Cheers, and loud cries 
of the ‘ Times,' followed by hissing.] 
We cannot believe that any of the press 
of England would be bribed. [Laughter, 
and renewed cries of the ‘ Times, ’ amidst 
which were heard the words ‘ Morning 
Tost.’] To be sure, some of our news¬ 
papers have been doing the work of des¬ 
potism rather heartily. And now they 
seem disposed to play the part of vam¬ 
pires or ghouls. They are worse than 
vampires and ghouls. How shall we de¬ 
scribe those indescribable monsters who, 
when their foes have fallen, when they 
are gone into exile, when they are separ¬ 
ated from their wives and children, when 
they are starving in the streets,—brought 
down to the begging of their bread in 
the midst of winter, —how, I ask, shall 
we describe the wretches who are then 
base enough to traduce the character of 
such men? I spoke of ghouls and vam¬ 
pires, They prey upon the corpse of the 



FOREIGN POLICY. III. 


4i3 


1850. 

material body : we have had no monster 
as yet which lived by destroying the 
character of a fallen foe. 

Now, Gentlemen, this money will be 
spent, I say, in bribing the Continental 
press—in paying for an insurrection in 
Paris, no matter whether it be a red re¬ 
publican or a legitimist insurrection, so 
that it causes confusion and violence— 
ay, in paying somebody to create confu¬ 
sion in this room, if they duis-. Talk 
of red republicanism being anarchical ! 
There is nothing in the world so anarchical 
as the despotism of St. Petersburg. Let 
it not be concluded, from what I say of 
the Russian Government, that we have 
here fallen into the great delusion which 
prevails in this country on the subject of 
the character of the Russian people. I 
have had before to correct some misap¬ 
prehensions with regard to the finances 
and resources of Russia. There is nothing 
in reference to which there is so almost 
universal a misapprehension as exists with 
regard to the character of the great mass 
of the Russian people. In the first place, 
vve have them represented to us as a col¬ 
lection of barbarous and discontented 
hordes, who are anxious to quit their 
country, and to pour, like an avalanche, 
on Western Europe. There is no greater 
delusion in the world than the supposition 
that the population of Russia have any 
desire to leave their native land. There 
is not a people in the world who are 
prouder of their country than are the 
Russians of theirs. There is not a peo¬ 
ple in the world who are less disposed 
to cross their frontiers to commit an act 
of depredation or spoliation, much less 
who would leave their country to become 
permanent settlers in another land. I 
speak now of the national character. 
Nor are the Russians a warlike people. 
There is no greater delusion than the 
supposition that we have to deal with 
the Russians as a warlike people. Why, 
the army is so unpopular, that when the 
Russian peasant is torn from his village 
by the conscription, there is a procession 
in the village, of which the priest is the 
leader, which resembles a funeral cere¬ 
mony. When I was at St. Petersburg, 


an English merchant described to me a 
striking scene, in order to illustrate the 
repugnance of the Russian people to 
enter the army. He said that he entered 
a street in St. Petersburg where a surgeon 
was examining the conscripts, in order 
to ascertain whether or not they were fit 
for the service. Some conscripts had 
entered a house. They were there de¬ 
nuded and examined, in order that it 
might be seen whether they were fit to be 
admitted into the army. One of the men 
was declared to be unfit for the service ; 
and so great was his excitement, that in 
the frenzy of his delirium and joy, he 
actually rushed from the house into the 
street in the state of nudity in which he 
had been examined. Well, now, I say 
the character of the Russian people is a 
gentle character. They have a great re¬ 
gard for human life. They are, indeed, 
as slaves, addicted to slavish vices ; they 
lie, they pilfer, and they are too apt to 
get drunk, or at least to indulge in the 
use of intoxicating liquors. But great 
crimes—the crimes of murder and vio¬ 
lence—are rare in Russia ; and I wish 
it to be distinctly understood, that in 
dealing with the Emperor Nicholas we 
will not allow it to be said that we stand 
here to menace or affront a population of 
sixty millions of people. 

But what will be the grievance of this 
people as against you? It is you who 
enable the Government to maintain its 
enormous army; it is you who enable 
the Emperor to keep up a navy for which 
he drags twenty or thirty thousand of 
his vassals from their villages, placing 
them for six months in the year in bar¬ 
racks in order that they may, for three 
summer months, sail on board his ships 
in the Baltic and the Black Sea, to the 
great amusement of British and Ameri¬ 
can sailors. The Russians have even a 
greater horror of the sea service than 
they have of the land service. They are 
dragged from their villages to be put 
into ships of war, and imprisoned in bar¬ 
racks at Cronstadt, and all because you 
lend the Emperor of Russia money to 
enable him to do this. Once withdraw 
these loans, and from that moment the 





m 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. iS, 1850. 


whole policy of the Emperor of Russia, 
as well as of the Emperor of Austria, 
will be changed. Russia would no 
longer be able to menace Turkey—- 
Russia would no longer be able to send 
its army into Hungary—Russia would 
no longer be able to hire these spies and 
journals in Western Europe; and the 
Emperor, not having the means of coer¬ 
cion placed in his hands by foreign aid, 
would be obliged to conciliate his people, 
in order to govern them securely. 

I would, in conclusion, exhort those 
who may read what I am saying, to con¬ 
sider well before they invest one far¬ 
thing of their money in a security based 
upon the life of an individual like this, 
one who does not belong to a long-lived 
family, and whose son may be utterly 
unfitted to cope with the difficulties 
which await him, when the present Czar 
dies. In thus lending your money, you 
place it upon a volcano. You may rise 
any morning and find that the vast em¬ 
pire has been torn asunder, that a spirit 
of violence and insubordination is spread¬ 
ing throughout its serf population. Come 
it will—it may come on any day. This 
boasted Emperor of Russia, of whose 
energy and talents we hear so much, is 
doing the most likely thing which a man 
could do to precipitate and render inevit¬ 
able such a convulsion as I speak of. 
Instead of conciliating the nobles, he 
is holding them with the tight hand of 
despotism — he is pretending to give 
emancipation to the serfs only to dis¬ 
appoint their hopes; and, instead of 
employing the energies and resources of 
the empire in preparing for the greatest 
evil which could hang over any country, 
namely, that which arises from the pos¬ 
session of twenty millions of serfs, he is 
increasing his expenditure, embarrassing 
his finances, enlarging his army and 


navy, trying to keep the whole of Europe 
in a state of perturbation, and making 
enemies to himself of every civilised 
people on the face of the earth. 

I ask all who may read what I say 
not to be daunted by what they are told 
is said in the City, by the statement that 
everybody is laughing at them — that 
everybody is laughing at Mr. Cobden’s 
letter. They said that everybody was 
laughing at my letter about the Austrian 
loan. We were told then, in reference 
to the Austrian loan, as we are told now 
with regard to the Russian, that it was 
all taken before we met. Well, now, I 
was calculating this morning, before I 
came here, what is the present state of 
the account of those who took the Aus¬ 
trian loan. I am very happy to say that 
that loan has remained principally in the 
hands of the first subscribers ; that it is 
the great bankers, the great brokers, the 
great speculators who had been really 
caught in this case ; and for that very 
reason, and no other, you will never 
hear of another Austrian loan. Now, 
what is the present state of the account 
of those speculators ? I find, by a very 
short calculation which I made this 
morning, that at the present rate on the 
Exchange, they have had a loss on that 
loan up to this day of 145,000/. So I 
think the laugh is on the other side of 
the face—and it is only the beginning of 
the laugh. We ask, therefore, everybody 
who has a conscience which is proof 
against one per cent.—on the ground of 
morality, on the ground of political eco¬ 
nomy, on political grounds, and on the 
ground of personal safety and security, 
we ask every one to ponder when he 
reads what has been said to-day—we ask 
all to do their utmost to discredit this 
most nefarious attempt on their credulity 
and their pockets. 





FOREIGN POLICY 

IV. 


HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 28, 1850. 


[On June 24, Mr. Roebuck made the following motion :—'That the principles which 
have hitherto regulated the Foreign Policy of Her Majesty's Government are such as 
were required to preserve untarnished the honour and dignity of this country, and at 
all times best calculated to maintain peace between this country and the various nations 
of the world.’ The motion was carried by 46. (310 to 246.) The motion was in 
answer to a censure on Lord Palmerston’s Administration carried on Lord Stanley's 
(the late Lord Derby’s) motion in the House of Lords. The occasion of the censure 
was the support given by Lord Palmerston to one Pacifico, a Jew, who claimed to 
be a British subject, and pretended to have suffered great losses in a riot at Athens.] 


It was my wish to have done to-night, 
what I have frequently done before—to 
have given a silent vote ; finding, as I do, 
that nearly all the arguments on both 
sides have been stated by other Members 
much better than I could state them ; 
but I have been referred to, in common 
with several other Gentlemen on this 
side of the House, as likely to take a 
course different from our neighbours on 
this occasion, and I therefore think it 
necessary to say a few words. 

First, I am anxious that, so far as I 
am concerned, the question should be 
put on its legitimate issue, and that it 
may not be still suggested that I am here 
for the purpose of indulging in a personal 
opposition ; I trust that, at all events, I 
may be exempted from any such charge. 
In the next place, I wish it to be under¬ 
stood, so far as I am concerned, that 
there is nothing in this case which in¬ 
volves any plot, conspiracy, or cabal of | 
any kind whatever. The hon. Member 
for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) is the author 
of this motion; do you accuse him of 


being in any plot, conspiracy, or cabal ? 
He has taken the initiative in the matter, 
and those who participate in the discus¬ 
sion merely comment upon the resolution 
so submitted to them by the hon. and 
learned Member. Lastly, I hope I may 
be exempted, at all events, from the 
sweeping charge made against Members 
who do not support this motion—that 
they are in the interest of despotism all 
over the world. 

I have heard from several Gentlemen 
around me, some of whom I do not think 
extremely democratic, whom I have by 
no means found always supporting ex¬ 
treme Liberalism, very considerable in¬ 
tolerance towards those who do not take 
the same view with themselves in relation 
to the Government on this occasion. I 
will ask those Gentlemen, do they think 
me an ally of Russia or of Austria ? 
Do they think I have shown less sym¬ 
pathy for the Hungarians or Italians 
than they have,—that I have less cos¬ 
mopolitan sympathies than they? If, 
then, they admit me to be as liberal as 




416 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 28, 


themselves, surely they may allow me 
the freedom of taking the view my con¬ 
science dictates in a matter which has 
nothing on earth to do with constitution¬ 
alism or despotism. 

As I understand it, the first thing 
before us is the conduct of our Govern¬ 
ment in Greece, though the hon. Member 
for Sheffield has widened that question, 
by the wording of his resolution, so as 
to cover the whole foreign policy of our 
Government. But as to the conduct of our 
Government in Greece, why, if this sub¬ 
ject had been set before us in February, 
or even in March, within a few weeks 
after we had heard that fifteen British 
vessels of war had assembled in the Bay 
of Salamis to blockade the coast of a 
friendly Power, there would scarcely 
have been any difficulty in approaching 
the subject in a calm and dispassionate 
way, apart from all the extraneous matter 
with which it has been now encumbered. 
Really, when those who oppose this 
motion are offhand charged with plot, 
conspiracy, and cabal, I am tempted to 
ask whether there has not been some 
little plot, conspiracy, and cabal to get 
up an artificial excitement in the country 
on the subject. Yes, I have seen placards 
and circulars; I am not speaking with¬ 
out knowledge. However, the question 
is, what was the conduct of our Govern¬ 
ment in relation to the affairs of Greece ? 
I have not brought my blue books down 
with me, and I shall not read a single 
line to you ; but as there is much mys¬ 
tification on the subject, and as I wish 
to deal fairly with all, I will state the 
case in a few words, so that no one may 
take exception to it. 

In the first place, Mr. Finlay, a Scotch 
gentleman, settles in Greece twenty years 
ago, taking up his residence at Athens, 
not as a merchant, not to promote British 
commerce in that quarter of the world, 
but as a denizen of Greece. He pur¬ 
chases land in Athens and the neighbour¬ 
hood ; I have seen the land, and I saw 
the much-discussed palace, just as it was 
rising from this land. Land was bought 
on speculation, not only in Athens but 
in the neighbourhood. Mr. Finlay thus 


became interested in the prosperity of 
Athens. The court of Greece and its 
Government were at this time established 
at Nauplia; it was desired by the pro¬ 
prietors and inhabitants of Athens that 
the Government should resume its ancient 
and classic seat, by removing to Athens. 
The landed proprietors of Athens, deeply 
interested in again making it the metro¬ 
polis of Greece, instead of allowing it to re¬ 
main what it was, little better than a vil¬ 
lage of huts, all signed an engagement with 
the commune or municipality of Athens 
to furnish land for erecting public build¬ 
ings upon, the price fixed being equiva¬ 
lent to about 3 '/id. to lYid. per square 
yard. I do not intend to go through 
all the correspondence on the subject 
of Mr. Finlay’s claim; I merely want to 
bring the matter to the point on which 
you must all agree. Mr. Finlay was one 
of more than one hundred persons who 
thus sold land to the Greek Govern¬ 
ment ; that is admitted by all parties in 
the correspondence. Among these pro¬ 
prietors who sold their land for palaces 
and public buildings were several for¬ 
eigners, and among these foreigners were 
two whom Sir E. Lyons, in his first letter 
to Lord Aberdeen, speaks of as fellow- 
sufferers with Mr. Finlay—Mr. Hill, 
the agent of the Episcopalian Society 
of America, and the Russian Consul- 
General. 

These are facts that nobody denies. 

I do not desire to go into any controversy, 
but simply to draw the attention of the 
House and of the country to the fact, 
that all the other proprietors of these 
lands, without exception, agreed to the 
terms, and accepted the terms, that were 
offered by the commissioners appointed 
by the municipality for that purpose. 
[‘No.’] Does the hon. and learned 
Member for Southampton, with his 
blue-book before him, mean to say that 
the fact is not stated in that blue-book 
as I have given it? [‘No,’ from Mr. 
Cockbum.] Why, it is stated there 
expressly. [‘No.’] Will the hon. and 
learned Member tell me that Mr. Hill 
and the Russian Consul-General accepted 
the money, or that they did not stand in 




FOREIGN POLICY. IV. 


4 i 7 


1850. 

the same position with Mr. Finlay? I 
know Mr. Hill; it is an honour to any 
one to be acquainted with him ; for, as 
it is well stated by Sir E. Lyons, in that 
first letter of his to which I have referred, 
there is no one to whom the rising 
generation of Greeks is more indebted 
than to Mr. Hill and his family. Mr. 
Finlay refused to take the money which 
the bulk of the other proprietors accept¬ 
ed ; a long controversy ensued, and the 
result was the approach of our ships of 
war to the Bay of Salamis. I have not 
stated anything so far that any one can 
deny. 

Now we come to M. Pacifico. M. 
Pacifico had his house outrageously 
attacked ; that no one can deny; he 
sends in his bill to the Government, and, 
with that bill in our hands, our ships of 
war enter the Piraeus. I blushed with 
indignation when I read the inventory of 
M. Pacifico. It is no matter of surprise 
that hon. Members have deprecated any 
allusion to the details of that bill, as if 
the whole of this question was not a 
question of details. [‘No, no.’] Why, 
with the exception of the apology re¬ 
quired for the insult to Fantome, all the 
rest is a matter of money. [‘No, no.’] 
I beg pardon ; I say all the rest is a 
matter of money, and your exclamations 
only show how you are acting in this 
case upon blind passion and party spirit. 
M. Pacifico sends in his bill to the 
Government ; he charges for a bedstead 
150/., he charges for the sheets 30/., he 
charges for the pillow-case 10/., for two 
coverlids 25/. This inventory is so deeply 
disgraceful to all concerned in it, that, 
first, you tried to evade the question, by 
saying the case was not one for nisiprius 
details, and then you turned round, and 
said that Pacifico brought all this furni¬ 
ture to Athens, to sell it to the King of 
Greece. But if we go into the bill for the 
personal apparel, the every-day working 
apparel of M. Pacifico and his family, 
we find there just the same sort of thing; 
it is all in unison with the 150/. bedstead. 
Why, there is a gold watch with append¬ 
ages put down at 50/. for one of the 
items. When I first read the account, 


I thought the whole thing was a mistake, 
and that in writing out the bill, pounds 
sterling had been put down instead ol 
drachmas, for I am pretty sure that in 
every case drachmas instead of pounds 
would have much more nearly repre¬ 
sented the real value of the articles. 

Next comes the case of the six Ionian 
boats at Salcina, and their demand for 
235/. —for I will not enter into details ; 
then the case of the four Ionians, who 
charged the Greek authorities with 
having outraged them, and thumb- 
screwed them, and taken their boats, 
two to Patras, and two to Pyrgos. The 
Greek authorities controvert the state¬ 
ment of our Consul upon this subject, and 
the correspondence altogether puzzles us 
as to who is right and who wrong ; but 
the noble Lord, nothing doubting, settles 
the matter in a few lines, by ordering 
that the four complainants shall be paid 
20/. each by the Greek Government. 

Then comes the Fantome case. A 
British ship of war is lying off Patras ; 
a boat goes on shore at nine o’clock at 
night, when it is dark ; the coxswain 
lands a midshipman, not at the usual 
place of disembarkation, but on the 
beach ; the midshipman goes to see his 
father, aboyprecedinghim withalsmtern; 
on his return he is taken into custody 
by two officials and conveyed to the 
station, in default of giving a satisfactory 
account of himself; the Greeks, bear 
you in mind, not speaking one word of 
English, nor the Englishman one word 
of Greek. Now, suppose a Frenchman 
landing in the same way from abroad, 
by night, near Brighton, not at the 
ordinary landing-place but on the beach, 
and observed by preventive officers, 
neither party understanding one word of 
the other’s language, and mutual explan¬ 
ation being consequently impossible. 
Why, the blockademen would at once 
put the landing party down for a French 
smuggler, and would take him into 
custody and convey him to the station 
where, an interpreter being procured, 
the explanation deficient would be sup¬ 
plied, and the arrested person be dis¬ 
missed with all proper apology. This 
27 



+I 8 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 28, 


was precisely what was done to the 
midshipman. As soon as an interpreter 
was found, and it was ascertained who 
the Englishman was, he was at once 
liberated, and respectfully conveyed to 
his ship. 

There you have the statement of all 
our grievances against Greece. [‘No, 
no.’] I will not go into the merits of 
them ; say the Greeks were wrong, or 
we were wrong, just as you please ; but 
admit they were wrong, and what I 
want to know is, whether the wrong 
was not one that might have been readily 
settled by other means than by sending 
fifteen ships of war into the Bay of 
Salamis ? I know I take a very vulgar, 
mercenary view of the matter, but I 
repeat my question,—Was there no other 
way to settle the question than by this 
immense array of force ? It is quite 
evident that the only reason why this 
entire matter was not settled before, was 
the bad spirit that existed between our 
representative and the Government of 
Greece. I do not speak disparagingly 
of Sir Edmund Lyons ; any other func¬ 
tionary under the same circumstances 
could scarcely have been so long there, 
any more than at Madrid or elsewhere, 
without getting mixed up with the local 
politics in the same way that Sir E. 
Lyons was. That was the origin and 
reason why it was found that for six or 
nine months there were no letters ad¬ 
dressed by the noble Lord to Sir E. 
Lyons, and why there had been no 
adjustment of these petty differences 
until it was necessary to send fifteen ships 
of war to Athens. 

Now, is there not something wrong 
at the bottom of this ? Is there not 
something that requires to be mended ? 
Is it worth while to have an Ambassador 
therewith 5,000/. a year embroiling you 
with the Government, and begetting bad 
blood and animosity ? Why, I would 
rather have no one but a Consul there, 
whose duty it should be to look after 
your commerce, and who should be told, 
‘Never go to Athens at all, for, if you 
mix yourself up with political matters, 
somebody else shall be appointed in 


your place.’ If you would do this, 
you would avoid the absurdity of having 
to employ fifteen vessels of war to 
collect a debt of 6,000/. But everybody 
said that something else was meant 
besides obtaining redress for injuries 
to British subjects in Greece. I be¬ 
lieve there was something in the back¬ 
ground that I have not heard. It is said 
that the noble Viscount intended this 
demonstration at Athens as a menace to 
Russia. But I say, how does this an¬ 
swer its purpose as a demonstration 
against Russia ? The moment the Court 
of Russia hear of the demonstration, I 
find that they send a remonstrance against 
the Government of this country — a 
remonstrance couched in language I 
never expected to hear from a semi-bar¬ 
barous country like Russia to this : read, 
I ask you, the extraordinary language 
used by Count Nesselrode to Lord 
Palmerston, and then read the answer 
of the latter, and see how different is the 
tone adopted by him to a country which 
is powerful compared with what he 
makes use of to one that is weak. 

Well, then, I ask again, what was 
the advantage of this demonstration, 
when the only result of it is a hectoring 
epistle from Count Nesselrode, to which 
the noble Viscount sent a very meek 
and lamb-like reply ? The reason why 
I abhor the policy of injustice and 
aggression—for I call it injustice and 
aggression to send ships of war against 
a weak country to enforce demands 
which might have been amicably settled 
—is, that you place yourselves in such a 
position that you are obliged to submit 
to language like this from the Russian 
Court. And why are you obliged to submit 
to it ? Because you are weak, and weak 
only on account of committing an in¬ 
justice, and of being conscious of having 
done so ; for otherwise, so far from this 
country being in a condition to be bullied 
by Russia, such are the advantages you 
possess in the knowledge and use of 
mechanical science and in the advanced 
state of the arts over Russia, that if you 
behaved with dignity to small states, she 
would not venture even to look at you, 



FOREIGN POLICY. IV. 


419 


1850. 

far less to use such language towards 
you. 

I have asked, why was not this affair 
settled by other means than by ships of 
war ? I now come to a part of the policy 
and conduct of the Foreign Office alto¬ 
gether irreconcilable with the notions of 
those hon. Gentlemen who did me the 
honour, to the number of eighty, of 
voting for my motion in favour of inter¬ 
national arbitration. It is quite clear, it 
is said, that the noble Viscount did not 
resort to arbitration. My charge against 
him is, that he did resort to arbitration 
after having made use, in the first place, 
of fifteen ships of war. No sooner was 
the demonstration known, than an envoy 
arrives from France with tenders of 
mediation. And now, I must say, I 
have read with feelings nearly akin to 
contempt for diplomacy, the accounts of 
what took place between the noble Lord 
at the head of the Foreign Office and M. 
Drouyn de Lhuys—I have read the 
French accounts and the accounts in the 
blue-books, and must confess I have felt 
the most sovereign contempt for diplo¬ 
macy. M. Drouyn de Lhuys came over 
in the most loyal spirit, as I believe, to 
offer to settle this beggarly affair of a 
few thousand pounds with Greece. He 
told the noble Lord frankly, as a proof 
of his sincerity, and he has repeated it 
in a letter to Lord Normanby, that it 
would be useful to the French Govern¬ 
ment to be allowed to settle it, or, to 
use a common American phrase, that it 
would give them ‘ political capital ’ in 
France. How did the noble Lord re¬ 
ceive the approaches of M. Drouyn de 
Lhuys ? Was it in the way any man of 
business, accustomed to the management 
of affairs, would have done ? Did he 
say, ‘ We are much obliged to you; this 
affair of a few thousands has been a long 
time standing over,—take it and settle 
it, and we shall be very much obliged to 
the Government of France?’ Would 
not that have been the rational and 
reasonable way of meeting him? Instead 
of this, what does the noble Viscount 
say? He higgles with M. Drouyn de 
Lhuys over the different words to be 


used,—over ‘good offices,’ ‘mediation,’ 
and ‘arbitration.’ I declare that both 
in French and English it fairly puzzles 
one to make anything out of it ; but it 
appears, by the accounts, that the noble 
Lord insists he won’t take ‘arbitration’ 
—it must be ‘ good offices.’ M. Drouyn 
de Lhuys, in the French account of what 
took place, given by him to General 
Lahitte, describes himself to have en¬ 
treated the noble Lord to extend a little 
the powers of the negotiators—to yield 
to an arbitration, and not to go deter¬ 
minedly on in the affair. But no ; the 
noble Viscount was determined to have 
what he demanded ; and all he would 
require of France was to persuade Greece 
to give what he asked. Baron Gros 
went out to Athens crippled by these con¬ 
ditions, but he set to work at once with 
Mr. Wyse. I think it is evident Baron 
Gros had the most earnest desire to settle 
the matter. Indeed, his character as a 
diplomatist was largely involved in his 
success in arranging it, and he went to 
work evidently disposed to surmount 
every possible difficulty ; but when he 
came to the case of Pacifico, and heard 
from all he conversed with in Athens 
the real facts of the case—when, to use 
a vulgar phrase, he found it out, and 
discovered it was an atrocious attempt 
at swindling, he could not swallow it. 
What was going on at the very same 
time in London ? At this very same 
moment commence the ‘ good offices ’ 
between the noble Lord and M. Drouyn 
de Lhuys. So he has two negotiations 
going, one at Athens and the other at 
London, and all to settle this paltry affair 
of a few thousand pounds. It ended as 
might be expected—a little delay on the 
part of a courier, some mistake or delay 
in not putting a letter into the letter-bag 
in time for the night’s post, and the 
whole affair was broken off in London 
before they in Athens could know what 
was doing. The negotiations were 
thrown aside—our ships were ordered 
to do their worst—Greece submitted— 
and you got your money. What follows? 
The French Government, irritated by 
your conduct, withdraws its Minister,— 





420 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 28, 


and now comes the quarrel I have with 
the noble Lord—now comes my case 
against him for not accepting arbitration 
in the first instance. Actually, after 
your ships of war had extorted the money 
from Greece, and a large part of it was 
already placed in bank, the noble Vis¬ 
count consented, in the most humiliating 
way,—for I consider the communications 
received from Lord Normanby most 
humiliating,—to accept what he had 
before refused, and you have now re¬ 
turned to this state, that by France with¬ 
drawing its ambassador you are obliged 
to do away all you have done by means 
of your fifteen ships of war. And you 
have agreed to substitute the Convention 
of London for the terms you obtained 
by your fleet at Athens. Yes ; have you 
not agreed to give up the money lodged 
in the Bank for payment ? What do 
you call that ? Your ships of war extort 
money from Greece ; the French Go¬ 
vernment tells you, ‘ Give that money 
back ; you must take the terms of the 
Convention of London.’ We yield, and 
so the matter ends. But it is not yet 
ended. 

And here is my complaint against the 
noble Lord. It seems as if the system 
at the Foreign Office is calculated to 
breed and perpetuate quarrels. First, 
you submit to rebuke from Russia, and 
next you are humiliated before France— 
the two countries, some of our very 
knowing people say, we intended to ter¬ 
rify by our demonstration against Greece; 
but the question is not yet settled. There 
are three arbitrators appointed to settle 
the question of Pacifico’s claim against 
the Court of Athens. As my hon. Friends 
near me, who voted for my motion, will 
see, they have been obliged to resort 
to my plan of arbitration, and the matter, 
after all the display of force, is still left 
open, and requires three arbitrators to 
decide it. I cannot imagine a more com¬ 
plete triumph of the principle I advo¬ 
cated last year than the details of this 
proceeding. Why, here are hon. Gentle¬ 
men behind me groaning. I am not 
surprised at it, for they really must be 
groaning at the thought of their own 


inconsistency. For what are we called 
on to vote ?—that this matter has been 
most ably, justly, and dexterously man¬ 
aged. But I do not think it is finished 
at all; for, independently of three arbi¬ 
trators and of ‘ their good offices,’ mind 
you, there is a very ominous little legacy 
left to us in the despatch of Lord Nor¬ 
manby in the probability of Greece 
quarrelling with us again. For my own 
part, seeing theu nfortunate result of 
‘ good offices, ’ I should not wonder if we 
had another quarrel with France for the 
exercise of her ‘good offices’ also. But 
it is said that there is, beside, some cause 
of quarrel with Russia, on account of 
vessels seized in the Levant and in the 
Greek ports, and M. Brunow has fairly 
given us notice he may have reclamations 
to make for the value of the property 
which fell into our hands, and for the 
loss we occasioned, and I should not be 
surprised if you had another blue-book 
very soon, containing correspondence 
with respect to seizures by the Russians; 
and all this has arisen because the 
Foreign Office would not submit this 
pettifogging business to arbitration. 
France would have been proud to be 
your arbitrator; you refused her. Then 
came the Convention, and at last comes 
an arbitration on the whole matter; only 
you submit on the most humiliating 
terms to conditions you had before 
refused. 

Now, let us take in two sums what 
the actual result has been, so far as we 
have gone, in obtaining what we de¬ 
manded. Our whole claim on the Greek 
Government was 33,000/. The whole 
amount we have actually received is 
6,400/.; so that, as we stand at present, 
we appear before the nations of the 
world as having made a demand for 
33, 000 /., and as having, up to the pre¬ 
sent moment, received only 6,400/. ; and 
that will show, in the face of the world, 
what the extent Of your injustice was 
in comparison with the justice of your 
claims. And, looking to the claims of 
M. Pacifico, and to the opinions of 
Baron Gros respecting them, I declare 
to you most solemnly my firm belief is, 



FOREIGN POLICY. IV. 


421 


1850. 

that if the people of England understood 
the merits of this question, and if they 
had read, as I have done, the contents 
of the blue-books and of the inventory, 
—such is the opinion I have of the gen¬ 
erosity and justice of my countrymen, 
that, in spite of the galvanic effort to 
make this a party question, they would 
be so disgusted, that they would raise a 
subscription to pay back the Greek Go¬ 
vernment the money it has given you. 
In the next place, beside a vote of appro¬ 
bation on account of this Greek affair, 
we are asked to identify ourselves with 
the general foreign policy of the Govern¬ 
ment since their accession to office. 

Now, I say I should be the most in¬ 
consistent being on the face of the earth 
if I gave such a vote. Not many years 
ago, I had to denounce, at a public 
meeting I called in Manchester, the 
conduct of the noble Lord in the case of 
Syria; and I remember afterwards de¬ 
nouncing his proceedings in Portugal 
also. I moved in this House fora return 
of any vessels of war belonging to us, 
which were at the time lying in the 
Tagus, in reference to that business. I 
protested, too, at a public meeting, and 
before a most enthusiastic audience, on 
the noble Lord’s conduct in the affairs 
of Sicily; and I am now called on to 
rote my approbation of the proceedings 
of the Foreign Office during the existence 
of the present Administration. Why, 
I say if I did so, and gave that vote, I 
think my mouth ought to be closed on 
any questions of economy, entrenchment, 
or possibility of reducing our establish¬ 
ments for ever, because I am quite sure, 
if this system is to continue, and if you 
are to send fifteen ships of war to collect 
debts of 6,400/., you not only cannot re¬ 
duce your establishments, but you have 
not establishments enough. There has 
been a great deal said during the debate 
about foreign intervention, but this is a 
principle which I thought was acknow- 
leged and admitted by all parties. Hon. 
Gentlemen on the other side of the House 
have never, since the time of the Reform 
Bill, thought of anything so absurd as 
obtaining popularity by the peculiar 


characteristic of being the interferers in 
the affairs of other countries. I cannot 
say there is as much wisdom on this side 
of the House, for there seems to me a 
disposition here to take merit to the 
party, because it has for its principle to 
interfere in the affairs of other nations. 
That was not the doctrine of Lord Grey. 
I remember the speech of the noble 
Lord in 1830. Nothing electrified the 
country more than that exposition of 
his principles. He spoke of the wars of 
Mr. Pitt and of his successors—of the 
800,000,000/. of expenditure incurred in 
those wars; and he pledged himself to 
the country that peace, non-intervention, 
and retrenchment, should be the watch¬ 
words of the Whig party. 

I ask the country fairly to decide 
whether the tone and language of the 
speakers on this side of the House, on 
this night, and in the course of this 
debate, have been in harmony and uni¬ 
son with that sentiment of Lord Grey ? 
Why, what has been the language of the 
hon. and learned Member for South¬ 
ampton (Mr. Cockburn), and for which 
he has been cheered to the echo ? One- 
half of the Treasury benches were left 
empty, while hon. Members ran one 
after another, tumbling over each other 
in their haste to shake hands with the 
hon. and learned Member. Well, what 
did the hon. and learned Member say ? 
I pass over his sneer against the men of 
peace and men of cotton, because we 
must allow gentlemen of the long robe 
some latitude, and allow them to forget 
the arena in which they are displaying 
their powers; but what would Lord 
Grey have said to the doctrine of the hon. 
and learned Gentleman, that we have no 
prospect of peace with the countries of 
Europe till they have adopted constitu¬ 
tional Governments ? What sort of con¬ 
stitutional Governments ? Is it our own? 
Why, even if they came so far as this, 
and suppose they adopt our form ol Go¬ 
vernment, might not hon. Members in 
the Assembly at Washington get up and 
say, ‘We will have no peace till we make 
the world republican ? ’ The hon. and 
learned Gentleman seems to have set out 





422 


JUNE 28, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


with the doctrine, that we ought to 
interfere with the forms of Government 
of the nations of Europe, and, judging 
from the noble Lord’s speech, I must say 
he appears to be no unwilling pupil in 
that school of policy. If the House of 
Commons votes its approbation of such 
sentiments, and the noble Lord acts on 
them, I think the Foreign Office will 
have undertaken the reform and consti¬ 
tutionalizing of every country on the face 
of the earth. But do you think the 
people of this country, when they get 
cool, will see the wisdom of carrying out 
such a course? I claim for myself as 
much sympathy for foreigners struggling 
for liberty as any one in this House; but 
it is not true, as the hon. and learned 
Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) 
said, that I ever attended a public meet¬ 
ing, and said I was in favour of going to 
war, and that I made an exception from 
my general principles in favour of 
Hungary. 

I am glad the hon. and learned Gen¬ 
tleman has stated this, and that I mis¬ 
understood him, as it may prevent my 
being misunderstood in future. I never 
in public advocated interference with the 
Government of foreign countries, even 
in cases where my feelings were most 
strongly interested in anything relating 
to their domestic affairs or concerns. 
When I see that principle violated by 
others, as in the case of the Russian in¬ 
vasion of Hungary, and when I see a 
portion of the press of this civilised 
nation hounding on that semi-barbarous 
empire, then, believing that this is almost 
the only country where there is a free 
platform, and where it cannot be cor¬ 
rupted, as a portion of the press may 
have been, I shall denounce it, as I de¬ 
nounced the Government of Russia, and, 
as I stated at the same time, I was ready 
to denounce our own Government also. 
But it is a matter of very small import¬ 
ance what my individual opinion may be, 
when you come to the question, whether 
the Government of this country shall 
become the propagandist of their opin¬ 
ions in foreign countries. I maintain this 
Government has no right to communicate 


except through the Government of other 
countries ; and that, whether it be a re¬ 
public, a despotism, or a monarchy, I 
hold it has no right to interfere with any 
other form of Government. Mark the 
effect of your own principle, if you take 
the opposite ground. If you recognise 
the principle of intervention in your Go¬ 
vernment, you must tolerate it in other 
nations also. With what face could you 
get up and denounce the Emperor of 
Russia for invading Hungary, after the 
doctrine advocated by the hon. and 
learned Member (Mr. Cockburn) to-night 
had been adopted by this country? I 
say, if you want to benefit nations who 
are struggling for their freedom, establish 
as one of the maxims of international law 
the principle of non-intervention. If 
you want to give a guarantee for peace, 
and, as I believe, the surest guarantee for 
progress and freedom, lay down this prin¬ 
ciple, and act on it, that no foreign State 
has a right by force to interfere with the 
domestic concerns of another State, even 
to confer a benefit on it, with its own 
consent. What will you say respecting 
the conduct of the noble Lord in the 
case of Switzerland? He joined there in 
an intervention, though the great major¬ 
ity of the Protestant cantons protested 
against it, and does the very thing he is 
seeking to prevent. 

But I come back to my principle. Do 
you want to benefit the Hungarians and 
Italians? I think I know more of them 
than most people in this country. I 
sympathised with them during their 
manly struggles for freedom, and I have 
admired and respected them not less in 
their hour of adversity. I will tell you 
the sentiments of the leading men of the 
Hungarians. I have seen them all, and 
I must say that, much as I admired them 
during their noble struggle, what I have 
seen of them in adversity has entitled 
them, in my belief, to still greater re¬ 
spect, for I never saw men — except 
Englishmen, to whom they bear in many 
respects a close resemblance—bear ad¬ 
versity with such manly fortitude and 
dignified self-respect. They have avoided 
all expressions of sympathy from public 






1850. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IV. 


423 


meetings, and, loathing the idea of being 
dependent on the charity ol others, have 
sought, by emigration to America and 
elsewhere, an opportunity of subsisting 
by the labour of their own hands. These 
men say,—‘ We don’t ask you to help 
us, or to come to our assistance. Estab¬ 
lish such a principle as shall provide we 
shall not be interfered with by others.’ 
And what do the Italians say ? They 
don’t want the English to interfere with 
them, or to help them. ‘ Leave us to 
ourselves,’ they say. ‘ Establish the prin¬ 
ciple that we shall not be interfered with 
by foreigners. ’ 

I will answer the hon. and learned 
Gentleman’s cheer. He seems to ask, 
How will you keep out Austria from 
Italy, and Russia from Hungary ? I will 
give him an illustration of what I mean. 
Does he remember when Kossuth took 
refuge in Turkey, and that Austria and 
the Emperor of Russia demanded him 
back ? I beg him to understand that this 
illustrious refugee was not saved by any 
intervention of the Foreign Secretary. 
Has it not been admitted that the Em¬ 
peror of Russia gave up his claim before 
the courier arrived from England ? What 
was it, then, that liberated them? It 
was the universal outbreak of public 
opinion and public indignation in West¬ 
ern Europe. And why had public opin¬ 
ion this power? Because this demand 
for the extradition of political offenders 
was a violation of the law of nations, 
which declares that persons who have 
committed political offences in one State 
shall find a sanctuary in another, and 
ought not to be delivered up. If our 
Government were always to act upon 
this principle of non-intervention, we 
should see the law of nations declaring 
itself as clearly against the invasion of a 
foreign country as it has spoken out 
against the extradition of political refu¬ 
gees. Let us begin, and set the example 
to other nations of this non-intervention. 
I have no doubt that our example and 
protest would exercise some influence 
upon the Governments of Austria and 
Russia ; but what possible moral influ¬ 
ence can this country have with those 


States when the Government goes abroad 
to interfere with the domestic affairs of 
other countries. 

It is said, however, that the noble Lord 
(Palmerston) goes abroad as the cham¬ 
pion of liberalism and constitutionalism. 
But I cannot fall into this delusion. I can¬ 
not trace the battle that we are taught to 
believe is going on under the noble Vis¬ 
count’s policy between liberalism and 
despotism abroad. I do not think that 
the noble Lord is more democratic than 
his colleagues, or than the right hon. 
Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Peel). I 
believe the noble Lord is of an active 
turn of mind—that he likes these pro¬ 
tocols and conventions, and that the 
smaller the subject, the better it suits his 
taste. I do not find that the noble Lord 
has taken up any great question of con¬ 
stitutional freedom abroad. Did he ever 
protest against the invasion of Hungary 
by Russia? He made a speech against 
Austria, I remember, on that occasion ; 
but he did not breathe a syllable against 
• Russia. The only allusion he made to 
Russia was in the nature of an apology, 
uttered in a sense that seemed to justify 
.the part taken, by Russia rather than 
otherwise. Then it is said, that in Italy 
the noble Lord endeavours to establish 
constitutional government and represent¬ 
ative institutions. The noble Lord told 
Lord Minto to go to Italy, not, as he 
himself declared, to recommend Parlia¬ 
ments or representative assemblies, but 
merely to advise the Government to 
adopt administrative reforms. But that 
was not what the Italian people wanted. 
They wanted security for their liberties 
by constitutional reforms, and the adop¬ 
tion of a representative system ; and 
that was what the noble Lord did not 
recommend should be given to them. I 
believe the progress of freedom depends 
more upon the maintenance of peace, 
the spread of commerce, and the diffu¬ 
sion of education, than upon the labours 
of Cabinets or Foreign-offices. And if 
you can prevent those perturbations 
which have recently taken place abroad 
in consequence of your foreign policy, 
and if you will leave other nations in 




42 ', 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 28, 1850. 


greater tranquillity, those ideas of free¬ 
dom will continue to progress, and you 
need not trouble yourselves about them. 

On this side of the House, somepersons 
have been menaced with very terrible 
consequences, and with the adverse 
opinion of the public, if they do not vote 
for this resolution. I can only say, that 
I, like many other hon. Members, sit 
commonly here and in committee-rooms 
of this House for twelve hours in the 
course of the day. Allow two or three 
hours a-day for the transaction of neces¬ 
sary business at home, and that is not 
play, but hard work. But why should 
we sit in this House and undergo this 
labour, unless to advocate those opinions 
and convictions which we believe to be 
true and just? If I have one conviction 
stronger than another, it is one upon 
which I made a first public exhibition 
of myself in print. The principle which 
I defend is assailed in this motion, and 
upon it, for fifteen years, my opinion 
has been again and again recorded. I 
have never seen reason to change that 
opinion, but, on the contrary, everything 
confirms me in my conviction of its truth. 
If I remain in this seat, I will try to 
promote the progress of these opinions ; 


and I hope to see the day when the 
intercourse of nations will exhibit the 
same changes as those which have taken 
place in the intercourse of individuals. 
In private life, we no longer find it 
necessary to carry arms about us for our 
protection, as did our forefathers. We 
have discontinued the practice of duel¬ 
ling, and something should be done to 
carry the same spirit into the intercourse 
of nations. In domestic life, physical 
correction is giving way to moral influ¬ 
ence. In schools and in lunatic asylums 
this principle is successfully adopted, 
and even the training of the lower ani 
mals is found to be better done by means 
of suasion. Cannot you adopt some¬ 
thing of this in the intercourse of nations ? 
Whoever brings forward such measures 
shall have my support; and if it should 
happen, as the hon. Member (Mr. Ber¬ 
nal Osborne) has threatened me, that 
the consequences of my vote will be the 
loss of my seat in this House, then I say 
that, next to the satisfaction of having 
contributed to the advance of one’s con¬ 
victions, is, in my opinion, the satisfac¬ 
tion of having sacrificed something for 
j them. 





FOREIGN POLICY, 
v. 

ROCHDALE, JUNE 26, 1861. 

[The following Speech was made by Mr. Cobden before his constituents, after the French 
Commercial Treaty had been negotiated. ] 


I APPEAR here in conformity with a 
time-honoured practice in your borough, 
which has led your representative annu¬ 
ally to come and give an account of his 
stewardship to you—to afford you an 
opportunity of conferring with him, and 
questioning him on any topic relating to 
his public duty and the interests of his 
constituency. Th.’t custom, I think, was 
justifiable in your case by the independ¬ 
ent and honourable course which you 
have always followed in the election of 
your Liberal representatives to Parlia¬ 
ment. But I appear here to-night under 
rather peculiar circumstances; for I have 
no account to give of my stewardship in 
Parliament, having been occupied for 
nearly eighteen months abroad, partly in 
prosecuting a public duty, and partly in 
quest of health. I have been, as your 
worthy Mayor (Mr. J. H. Moore) has 
stated, engaged in arranging a commer¬ 
cial treaty with France. I have been, 
as you are aware, honoured with the 
confidence of our Sovereign, and, aided 
by colleagues whose services in the j 
matter I would not fora moment appro- 1 
priate to myself, I have been endeavour¬ 
ing to make such arrangements as shall 
lead two great countries, peculiarly de¬ 
signed by Providence to confer mutual 
benefits upon each other, but who, owing 


to the folly and perhaps wickedness of 
man, have been for centuries rather 
seeking to injure and destroy each other, 
to enter upon new relations. I have 
been seeking to form arrangements by 
which these two countries shall be united 
together in mutual bonds of dependence, 
and, I hope, of future peace. 

It has been truly said by the Mayor, 
that France has been hitherto as a nation 
attached to those principles of commer¬ 
cial restriction which we in England 
have but lately released ourselves from, 
but which have cost us thirty years of 
pretty continuous labour, and the services 
of three or four most eminent statesmen, 
in order to bring us to our present state 
of comparative freedom of commerce. 
The French, on the contrary, have taken 
hardly a single step in this direction ; 
and it was left for the present Emperor 
—and he alone had the power—to ac¬ 
complish that object, and to his Minister 
of Commerce, who for the last eighteen 
months has scarcely given himself twen¬ 
ty-four hours of leisure—it was left for 
them to accomplish in France, in the 
course of a couple of years, what has 
taken us in England at least, thirty years 
to effect. I mention this, because I wish 
—and I have a reason for it, which I 
will state in a moment—I wish it to b* 





426 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 26. 


borne in mind what has been the magni¬ 
tude of the task which the French Go¬ 
vernment has had to accomplish on this 
occasion. They had to confront power¬ 
ful influences which were at the moment 
entirely unbroken, and they had to 
attack the whole body of monopoly in 
France; whereas, if you recollect, in this 
country our statesmen began by sapping 
and mining, and by throwing over the 
smaller interests, in order that they might 
form a coalition of them against the 
greater monopolies. Everything has had 
to be done in France during the last 
eighteen months. Much remains to be 
done, I hope much will be accomplished 
in a short time. I wish you to under¬ 
stand distinctly the magnitude of the 
task which the French Government has 
had to accomplish, because thereupon 
hangs a tale and an argument upon 
which I shall have a word to say in a 
moment. There is a peculiarity in the 
condition of French industry which gives 
the fair prospect of a reasonable antici¬ 
pation of a mutual and beneficial inter¬ 
course between these two countries. It 
is a very singular fact that France, 
which, by its social organisations and by 
its political maxims, is perhaps one of 
the most democratic nations in the world 
—that this people are almost exclusively 
employed in the manufacture of articles 
of great luxury and taste, adapted almost 
exclusively for the consumption of the 
aristocratic and the rich, whereas Eng¬ 
land, on the contrary, the most aristo¬ 
cratic people in the world, is almost 
wholly employed in the manufacture of 
those articles which conduce to the 
comfort and the benefit of the great 
masses of the community. You have 
here, therefore, two peoples, who, by 
their distinct geniuses, are admirably 
suited for a mutual exchange of the pro¬ 
ducts of their industry, and I argue very 
much, as your Mayor has intimated, in 
favour of the great advantages which the 
masses of the French people will derive 
from the Treaty which has been lately 
arranged with that country. 

The French people—I am speaking of 
the working people—are, in comparison 


witn tne English people, a badly-clothed 
population. Any one who has travelled 
in the winter-time from Calais to Dover, 
cannot fail to have observed the contrast 
between those blue round frocks which 
the Frenchmen wear, and the more 
comfortable, because warmer, woollen 
and worsted garments which the English 
workmen at that season of the year 
possess. It reminds me—the condition 
of the French population in their clothing 
now — somewhat of the condition in 
which this population of England was 
placed, with regard to food, five-and- 
twenty years ago, before the Corn-laws 
were touched. At that time, our popu¬ 
lation was a badly-fed people,—living, 
too many of them, upon rootg; there 
were some six or eight million quarters 
less of corn consumed than ought to 
have been consumed in this country, and 
which has been annually consumed since 
the people were permitted to obtain it. 
Just as Free Trade has enabled this peo¬ 
ple to be better fed, so will it enable the 
French population to buy better clothing, 
and by precisely the same process by 
which we have arrived at this result in 
England ; partly because there will be a 
considerable importation into France of 
your plain and coarse manufactures, and 
partly because of the stimulus that will be 
given to the manufactures of the French 
themselves — just as your increased 
supply of corn in this country has come, 
partly from the importation of the pro¬ 
duce of foreign countries, and partly by 
the important advantages which compe¬ 
tition has afforded to your own agricul¬ 
turists. And we, on one side, will 
obtain, and have obtained, great benefits 
from this change. The change on our 
side is our merit; the change on the 
other side is the merit of the French 
Government. What, I confess, as an 
Englishman, I have been led in this 
important duty most to consider, is how 
this matter has benefited you, not by 
what it will allow you to export, but by 
what it will allow you to import. This 
is the way by which I seek to benefit a 
population, by allowing more of the 
good things to come in from abroad. 





i86i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


427 


Upon the imports are based the late 
measures of our Government ; and I 
give the credit for the putting this great 
final coping-stone upon the edifice of 
Free trade—I mean so far as the abolition 
of all protective duties goes—I give the 
merit to the present Government, and 
their great Chancellor of the Exchequer 
(Mr. Gladstone). They have abolished 
the last remaining protective duties in 
our Tariff. Now, mark what the advan¬ 
tage of this will be to us as a mercantile 
people—an advantage which has not 
been sufficiently appreciated, I venture 
to observe. By removing every duty 
upon all articles of foreign manufacture, 
we have made England a free port for 
manufactured goods, just as we had made 
it a free port for corn and for raw 
materials. The consequence is, that all 
articles of foreign manufacture may be 
brought to England without let or hin¬ 
drance. We find a large consumption 
for them here ; and foreigners and colo¬ 
nists coming from Australia, and Canada, 
and America, may find in our warehouses, 
not merely all our produce which they 
want, but Swiss, and German, and 
French produce, which they may buy 
here without vishing the Continent to 
purchase there. This, I consider, is to 
us, as a mercantile people, an immense 
advantage, which will be by-and-by 
fully appreciated, the importance of 
which, I think, has not yet been al¬ 
together anticipated ; but, besides this, 
we are going to import commodities from 
France which have been hitherto pro¬ 
hibited, and which will not only be to 
their advantage, but to ours. Take, for 
instance, the article of wine. We all 
know that for a century or more, owing 
to an absurd Treaty which was made 
with Portugal, this country put a pro¬ 
hibitive duty upon French wines, and 
the consequence has been that the taste 
of this country has been perverted, and 
that which is the best article of its kind 
in the world has been almost a stranger 
in this land. 

Well, besides the preferential duty 
which has included French wines, we 
have laid on such an enormous amount 


of duty that nothing but wines of the 
very strongest character, the effect of 
which could be suddenly felt in the head, 
were ever thought worth purchasing. 
When a man had to pay 6 d. or 9 d. for a 
glass of wine containing a few thimble¬ 
fuls, he wanted something which would 
affect his head for his money ; he would 
not buy the fine, natural, and compara¬ 
tively weak wines of France, though 
every other country in the world but 
England has regarded French wines as 
the best wines in the world. The Eng¬ 
lish taste has been adulterated, and our 
people, or those who could afford it, 
have preferred the narcotic and inflam¬ 
matory mixture which is called port, or 
even sherry. A friend of mine lately 
had the curiosity to look into our national 
ballads, with the view of finding out and 
making a collection of drinking songs. 
He told me he found that all the songs 
were in honour of French wines—cham¬ 
pagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux—and they 
were all old songs, written at the time 
when our ancestors used and preferred 
French wine ; and that since they were 
not allowed to obtain those wines, songs 
in favour of wine have ceased. He drew 
this conclusion :—That when the people 
drunk French wines they became merry 
and sang ; but when they took to port 
and sherry it made them stupid, and they 
went to sleep. 

I don’t know that I should like to go 
so far as a lamented friend of mine, a 
former Mayor of Bordeaux, who hap¬ 
pened to be travelling in England, and 
paid us a visit in Manchester to a dinner; 
and when his health had been drunk, 
he said—* Gentlemen, when 1 travel I 
have but one test of civilisation every¬ 
where. I ask, Do the people consume 
claret ? ’ That is, the wine of Bordeaux. 
I don’t go quite so far as that, but I do 
say, in whatever point of view you regard 
it, whether it is as a beneficial exchange 
with France, enabling you to exchange 
the products of your industry with the 
greatest and richest people on the Con¬ 
tinent, whether it be in the interests of 
temperance, or whether it be in the in¬ 
terests of health, it is desirable that the 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 26, 


428 

taste of England should have at least the 
opportunity of going back to that natural 
channel which our forefathers followed 
when they had, as we now have, access 
to French wines at a moderate duty, or 
at the same duty as on other wines. I 
am not so sanguine as to expect that a 
great trade is to grow up between France 
and England, suddenly, to-morrow, or 
next year. It will require time; but the 
door has been opened honestly, with all 
sincerity ; and I have no doubt, after we 
have had a sufficient time to correct those 
errors into which our forefathers fell, that 
this work, like every other in which we 
have been engaged where restrictions 
have been removed, will be found favour¬ 
able to the best interests of this country 
and of France. 

Now, I confess that the work on which 
I have been engaged would have but 
small interest for me, if it had not con¬ 
duced to something different and higher 
than the mere increase of the beverage 
of the people of this country. The 
object which I have sought, and which 
those who know me will know right 
well, has been not merely to promote 
the physical well-being of these two 
peoples — though that in itself is an 
object worthy of all care—but my aim 
and hope have been to promote such 
a change as shall lead to a better moral 
and political tone between the two 
nations. And this brings me to the point 
to which I said I would refer. Your 
worthy Mayor has alluded to the im¬ 
mense preparations now making by the 
Governments of these two countries for 
warlike operations. Those preparations, 
so far as the navies of the two countries 
are concerned, are undoubtedly—nay, 
avowedly — with the view to mutual 
attack or defence from those two 
countries alone. Well, now, we are not 
ignorant of the fact that the French 
Government and the French Emperor 
have been made responsible for this in¬ 
crease in our naval armaments. It is 
upon that point I want to say a word or 
two to you as my constituents, and I 
address myself to this subject with you, 
because it is one that is peculiarly 


germane to my first meeting with this 
constituency after a meeting which you 
held some eighteen months ago, in which 
you refused to establish a rifle corps in 
this town. At the time when that meet¬ 
ing was held I was in Paris, and read 
the proceedings with considerable in¬ 
terest. It was the only meeting I saw, 
during a peculiar fecvour and violence of 
agitation in this country, at which such 
a resolution was arrived at; and, without 
passing judgment upon the question of 
volunteers in general — upon which I 
reserve myself, for I don’t know whether 
I shall have time to say anything on the 
subject—all I wish to say is this, that, as 
far as my experience goes, and it has not 
been small, as you may suppose, in 
France, as far as the decision of this 
town was come to on the ground that 
there was no danger from France which 
warranted such a preparation, I come 
here to tell you, in my judgment, you 
acted with perfect propriety. 

Now, I have spoken of the difficulties 
and the obstacles which the French 
Government had to encounter in the 
work in which they had been engaged 
for the last eighteen months—the total 
subversion of their commercial system. 
I ask you, as I ask every reasonable 
man, is there no presumptive evidence 
calculated to make you pause before you 
believe as probable or true what certain 
Admirals—one of them, I am sorry to 
say, now no more—say as to the French 
Government and the French meditating 
to attack or invade this country, when 
you find that Government engaged in 
this most difficult task, the subversion 
of their commercial system, by throwing 
open the markets of that country to the 
manufactures of England, and opening 
the markets of England to the produc¬ 
tions of France? I say, is there not 
something in this fact to make you pause 
before you believe on the mere ipse dixit 
of some not over-wise Admiral, who has 
never given one fact to prove what he 
says, that it is the design of the French 
Emperor to come and invade your shores 
without cause of quarrel or without 
grievance assigned? But I don’t ask 



r86i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


429 


you to rely upon probabilities of tilings 
in this matter. I speak to you of facts 
—facts which have come within my 
own knowledge—facts which I, perhaps, 
better than any man in the world, have 
had the opportunity of knowing and 
investigating. It is alleged that the 
French have been for some time making 
formidable preparations in their naval 
armaments. 

Well, the first question I ask with 
regard to that is—What has been the 
proportion of money spent in France 
upon their naval armaments, and what 
has been the proportion spent in England 
for a similar purpose ? There has been 
always between England and France, 
by a sort of tacit agreement, I may call 
it, a certain proportion or relation in the 
amounts expended in their respective 
armaments. If you take the navies of 
the two countries for the last century, 
you will find that, when in a normal 
state of peace, the French have had a 
navy little more than half the size of 
that of England. If you take the expend¬ 
iture, you will find that the French 
naval armament has, during all that 
period, by a sort of tacit arrangement— 
as I have said—spent rather more than 
the half of what England has spent upon 
her navy. Well, then, I will take the 
ten years that preceded 1858 inclusive. 
I find that the expenditure of the French 
has been rather more than the half of 
what England has spent. I have taken 
the expenditure up to 1858 only for this 
reason—that if you take the French esti¬ 
mates you will not arrive at the actual 
expenditure. I admit that would not be 
a fair criterion of the amount of money 
spent in this manner ; because they bring 
forward the estimates for the year, and 
afterwards there are supplementary votes, 
which increase the amount. But if you 
wait for two years, until the definitive 
balances and records of the French 
finances have passed through their audit 
offices, and have been published in what 
is called ‘ Les Reglements Definitifs du 
Budget,’ then you have as reliable an 
account as any in the world. I have 
heard of no political party—and you 


know that in France party feeling is 
as bitter, or even more bitter, than in 
this country—I have never heard any 
foreigner even, but who would admit, 
without scruple or observation, that when 
these definitive budgets are published, 
they have a creditable and reliable 
account of their expenditure. I have 
waited, and I see that down to the last 
accounts, published up to the year 1858, 
the French, for ten years previously — 
during the whole of the reign of this 
Emperor, and before his accession—have 
expended little more than half of what 
has been expended in England. 

Well, but in England we have ships 
of war 20 per cent, cheaper than in 
France; we have steam-engines 30 per 
cent, cheaper; we have coals 40 per 
cent., and we have stores 20 or 30 per 
cent, cheaper. How is it, then, I ask, if 
France has expended little more than half 
what we have in these ten years—how 
is it, that in the year 1859 you suddenly 
hear, as though it were an explosion, 
that France is coming to invade us, and 
has made undue preparations in her naval 
armaments ; and that we must not be 
content with nearly doubling our expend¬ 
iture, and with a large expenditure on 
our standing forces, but must call upon 
the people of this country to arm and 
enrol themselves as volunteers ? There 
must be a reason for this state of things. 
I speak always with too much respect for 
the great masses of my countrymen, even 
when I am confronting what I believe 
to be their delusions, to think of passing 
over this subject without offering the 
best explanation I can to satisfy and 
assure the public mind upon this question. 
I believe I can answer the question by 
stating that there may be facts connected 
with our navy which will give some 
colour to these outcries of alarm. The 
facts are these : The affairs of our Ad¬ 
miralty are most deplorablymismanaged. 
That will not be denied by any one now 
that is acquainted with what is going on 
at head-quarters. We had a Commis¬ 
sion sitting last year, under the Queen’s 
sign manual, to inquire into the manage¬ 
ment of our dockyards. Men of business 




JUNE 26, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


placed upon that Commission made 
a tour of the dockyards and arsenals. 
They examined them. And what do 
you think was their report ? The sub¬ 
stance of it is in a dozen lines, and I 
will read them to you :— 

< The Royal Commission appointed last 
year reports that the control and manage¬ 
ment of the dockyards are inefficient from 
the following causes :—First, from the inef¬ 
ficiency of the constitution of the Board of 
Admiralty ; secondly, from the defective 
organisation of the subordinate depart¬ 
ments ; thirdly, from the want of a well- 
defined responsibility ; fourthly, from the 
absence of any means, both now and in 
times past, of effectually checking expend¬ 
iture from a want of accurate accounts.’ 

Now mark ; just endeavour as men of 
business to carry with the full meaning 
of this verdict by supposing it to apply 
to a private house of business. First, 
the constitution of the Board of Admir¬ 
alty is defective, that is, of the body, the 
head of the governing body—that means, 
the masters—don’t know their business, 
and are not properly appointed. Then 
we have the defective organisation of the 
subordinate departments—that means, 
the foremen don’t know their business. 
Then the want of clear and well-defined 
accounts—that means, that the masters, 
or those who call themselves masters, if 
you go and ask them why such a thing 
is not done, they will tell you that they 
are not responsible. And then, the fourth 
defect is that they don’t keep reliable 
accounts, and therefore they don’t know 
how the concern is carried on. 

That is the judgment passed upon 
our Admiralty by a Commission under 
the Queen's sign-manual issued last year; 
but at the present moment there is a 
Committee sitting in the House of Com¬ 
mons, inquiring again into the affairs 
of the Admiralty, examining the same 
witnesses and others, and trying to find 
out the evils of this mal-administration. 
Well, I have said that the French 
Government during the ten years ending 
with 1858, spent a little more than one- 
half what we spent upon their navy. 
Then comes the question, what has be¬ 


come of all this money? How have these 
people managed to waste the enormous 
sums they have taken and wrung from 
the pockets of the tax-oppressed people ? 
I will give you one little item from my 
honourable Friend, who is now the Se¬ 
cretary of the Admiralty, Lord Clarence 
Paget. Speaking in the spring of 1859 
—i could give you the exact date—he 
attacked those who were then in office; 
and he came into office a few months 
afterwards in the same capacity. Now, 
he stated in Parliament, that he had 
gone carefully over the accounts for the 
eleven years previous to 1859, and he 
found five millions sterling voted for 
the construction of ships of war which 
could not be accounted for. Now don’t 
let me be misunderstood. Neither Lord 
Clarence Paget nor myself mean to 
imply that this money is stolen. The 
persons we criticise are honourable men 
as far as personal honour goes. I mean 
that they are certainly not the men 
to put the money into their own pockets. 
I will account for it in other ways, and 
I am here to account for it to you. The 
money has been wasted by making things 
which were useless. When the heads 
are irresponsible, when the foremen are 
ignorant, and when there are no accounts 
that can be relied upon, you may be satis¬ 
fied how the business must be carried on. 
I will give you an instance of it, and it 
will explain this matter. It will explain 
the whole mystery of what we have in 
hand. About the year 1850 it was seen 
and admitted by the naval authorities in 
both countries that, in consequence of 
the application of steam for the propel¬ 
ling of ships, the old sailing vessels of 
the line could no longer be relied upon 
in case of war. Both France and Eng¬ 
land at that time came to the conclusion 
that in future line-of-battle ships must 
have screw propellers put in them. 
What was the course pursued by France? 
France has one Minister of Marine—not 
a Board, like ours, consisting of gentle¬ 
men upon whom it would puzzle even a 
detective police officer to fix any respon¬ 
sibility. The Emperor and the Minister 
of Marine are in concert; and they say, 




i86i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


48i 


as wooden sailing line-of-battle ships 
will be useless in future, we must cease 
building them ; and they have ceased 
building them. In England, we went 
on building line-of-battle ships for sails, 
and have been building them ever since. 
The French took their old vessels—their 
existing vessels—and put screw steam- 
engines into them, and adapted them for 
the purposes of war. In England, we 
went on building and converting, and 
managing to build new vessels, as fast 
as we converted the old ones ; and 
the consequence was that France, only 
having to buy steam-engines to put 
into their wooden vessels (whilst we 
were building vessels and buying steam- 
engines), had got her work done in 
less time, and at less expense, than we 
have. When it came in view almost 
immediately afterwards that, in conse¬ 
quence of this proceeding, the French 
appeared to have at one moment—ac¬ 
cording to the statement of one of our 
Admiralty—nearly as many line-of-battle 
ships with screws as we had, we heard 
a cry that the French wanted to steal 
a march upon us, because she had nearly 
as many steam line-of-battle vessels as 
we. We never took stock of our line-of- 
battle steam and sailing vessels combined. 
If we had, we should have found that 
we had at that time as many more line- 
of-battle ships as we had in 1850. That 
is one of the ways in which this vast 
sum of money has been uselessly spent. 

I will now come to five years later. 
During the war in the Crimea, it was 
found that these iron-cased vessels for 
gun-boats served the purpose admirably 
of protecting ships of war from those 
shells and combustible missiles which 
were the latest inventions for the pur¬ 
poses of war. Immediately that was 
discovered, the Emperor orders two 
frigates to be built and covered with iron. 
We knew what was going on, and the 
English Admiralty reported upon it. 
They were in no great hurry in construct¬ 
ing the Gloirc. The keel of that vessel 
was laid down in the summer of 1858, 
and she was not completed with her ar¬ 
mour on till the autumn of i860. What 


does our Admiralty do in the mean time ? 
We had one Admiralty after another ; 
and as they succeed each other, you see 
them go down to Shoeburyness or Ports¬ 
mouth for the purpose of trying experi¬ 
ments—first inviting Mr. Whitworth to 
see if he could manufacture a gun suffici¬ 
ently powerful to send a rifled solid bullet 
through these iron plates ; and at another 
time calling on Sir William Armstrong 
to do the same. In this way they con¬ 
tinue to amuse themselves. In the mean 
time, the Minister of Marine and the 
Emperor said, ‘ What we want is some¬ 
thing to protect us against the hollow 
shells which fall very much like hail on 
our wooden ships.’ It is against these 
detonating shells that we wish to protect 
ourselves, and the French Government 
went on to complete these two vessels of 
war with iron armour. But there was 
no reason why these iron vessels should 
have been launched before ours. We 
voted the money ; we have more iron, 
and more workmen capable of construct¬ 
ing such vessels, if the Admiralty had 
chosen to employ them. But there is no 
responsibility, no one who knows his 
business, and nothing was done. Then, 
because the French had their iron ship 
completed sooner than ours, a cry was 
raised that the Emperor was coming to 
invade us. 

Now, I have examined this question, 
and, having taken the pains to inform 
myself upon it, I have no hesitation in 
saying that the idea of the French Go¬ 
vernment ever contemplating rivalling us 
in our naval force, still less of invading 
us—I say it from my conscience — I 
believe is as great a hoax and delusion 
upon this generation as anything we read 
of in history since the time of Titus 
Oates, and indeed, as bad as anything 
Titus Oates ever said. I have given 
you the judgment of this Royal Com¬ 
mission upon the Admiralty. Now I 
will read a few words uttered by Mr. 
Gladstone in the House of Commons, 
last year, upon the nature — upon the 
character—of our administration gener¬ 
ally of public works :— 

' He had no hesitation in saying that these 



43 * 


JUNE 26, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


and other circumstances of a like kind were 
entirely owing to the lamentable and de¬ 
plorable state of our whole arrangements 
with regard to the management of our 
public works. Vacillation, uncertainty, 
costliness, extravagance, and all the con¬ 
flicting vices that could beenumerated were 
united in our present system. There was 
a total want of authority to direct and guide 
when anything was to be done ; they had 
to go from department to department, from 
the House of Commons to a Committee, 
from a Committee to a Commission, and 
from a Commission to a Committee again ; 
so that years passed away, the public were 
disappointed, and the money of the coun¬ 
try was wasted. He believed that such 
were the evils of the system, that nothing 
short of a revolutionary reform would ever 
be sufficient to rectify it.' 

Mr. Gladstone was then speaking with 
reference to the administration of the 
Public Works in connection with the 
building of the British Museum. But 
the greatest of your national manufac¬ 
tures is the navy. Your dockyards are 
the great Government manufactories; it 
is there, with their ships and machinery, 
that the largest amount of your money 
is spent, and the greatest waste takes 
place. And, bad as is the Board of 
Public Works, I believe it is the unani¬ 
mous opinion of public men of all parties, 
except the half-dozen who have been in 
the Admiralty, or the half-dozen now in 
it, that of all the public departments, 
that which is the worst managed, the 
most irresponsible, and where the great¬ 
est waste prevails, is the Admiralty. 

Now, I do not think it out of place 
or out of time to talk to you upon this 
subject—upon this fallacy, with refer¬ 
ence to the designs and doings of the 
French Government and of the French 
Emperor in particular; for upon that 
fallacy is based a claim upon the pockets 
which must be counted by millions 
sterling per annum. But I speak to 
you also in the character of your repre¬ 
sentative, who was placed in a respon¬ 
sible and delicate position with reference 
to this very question. I was in Paris at 
the time that all these meetings were 
convoked to form these rifle corps. I 


was there with the known object of 
endeavouring to promote a treaty of 
commerce between the two countries. 
I was first in the midst of the negotia¬ 
tions for the basis of the treaty, when 
there was the greatest excitement, and 
the greatest anxiety, and the greatest 
agitation in this country, for the purpose 
of getting up public demonstrations in 
favour of the rifle corps, avowedly to 
protect this country against France. 
The language held in this country—I 
can hardly trust myself to characterise 
it. I remember an account of a meeting 
in Somersetshire—I don’t know that it 
could have taken place in a more ap¬ 
propriate county—there was a farmer 
speaking upon this subject, and some¬ 
body cried out to him—he was speaking 
of invasion by the French Emperc r— 
‘ Suppose they come, what will you 
charge them for your com ? ’ And his 
answer was, ‘ They shall pay for it with 
their blood ! ’ This was the language, 
and it is only a sample. It was going 
on through the country at a time when, 
I repeat it, not one act had ever been 
done by the French Government to 
warrant the supposition of any hostile 
feeling being meditated towards us, and 
at the very time when the French 
Government was about to enter upon a 
complete revolution in their commercial 
policy ; which, if the French Emperor 
had such a design as to make an attack 
upon this country, would have convicted 
him of the most absolute folly—I was 
going to say madness—because at the 
same time that he was disturbing the 
commercial interests, and setting the 
ironmasters, the cotton-spinners, and 
all the great capitalists against him, he 
was said to be meditating just such an 
attack upon this country as would have 
required the support of those very 
interests to gain his ends. Nay, more, 
looking at him as an intelligent being— 
and that is his great characteristic, for 
he is a remarkably intelligent man— 
looking at him as an intelligent man, 
what must we say of his conduct in 
proposing at the same time to adopt a 
policy which would knit the two coun- 



i86i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


433 


tries in the bonds of commercial de¬ 
pendence in such a way that it would 
have been difficult to have caused a 
rupture between them—for war tears 
asunder most of those sensitive fibres 
which constitute the body politic when 
it rends these mutual ties of commercial 
intercourse—what shall we say of a man 
who, though arming a few ships, was 
suspected of contemplating a piratical 
attack on this country ? But supposing 
that might have been possible ; I tell 
you candidly, that before I took a step 
in reference to this treaty, I satisfied 
myself upon these facts, which I am 
now narrating; and I tell you more, 
and I would tell to the French Govern¬ 
ment as I now tell to you, that if I found 
one fact to justify what had been stated 
here at that time in public meetings— 
if I found that the French Government 
had done anything to disturb that rela¬ 
tion which has existed pretty nearly for 
a century in the proportions of the 
French and English navies—I should 
have suspected some sinister design on 
the part of the French Government, and 
should have considered myself a traitor 
to my country if I had allowed the 
Government of that country, on proof 
of any sinister intentions, to have made 
use of me to mislead or hoodwink 
England by leading me to suppose that 
my instrumentality was being used for 
the promotion of commercial intercourse, 
when I had grounds to believe they were 
entering upon a policy of war. 

I have said that down to the year 1858 
inclusive we have the finance accounts, 
showing what has been the expenditure 
of France compared with our own upon 
our navy. As we have not the audited 
accounts for 1859 and i860—and I am 
not going to trust to estimates—I will 
not speak of the expenditure for these 
two years. But I can give you another 
proof that during last year, at the very 
time we were raising this cry of invasion, 
and charging the French Government 
with making undue and unprecedented 
preparations for an invasion of our shores 
—that we had last year, and during the 
whole of last year, a larger naval force, 


in proportion to that of France, than I 
have ever known in any normal natural 
time of peace within the last century. I 
will not speak of money, but of men. 
When you take the number of men voted 
and employed in the navy, you have the 
clue to all the other expenses of the navy; 
that is never attempted to be denied by 
any one who understands anything of 
these matters. During i860, the French 
Government had voted 30,400 men and 
boys for their navy; and in the same year 
we had 84,000 men and boys voted for 
our navy. I will take what I know upon 
authority, and which will not be disputed 
by anybody. I will assume that the 
French navy possessed 34,000 men and 
boys last year. I will throw in, also, a 
statement which gives 3,600 more than 
they actually had, and then taking these 
34,000 against our 84,000, it is as near 
as possible five to two on our part ; that 
instead of half, or a little more than half, 
which has been the normal state of things, 
England last year, at the time of all this 
hubbub, at the time when you were in¬ 
vited to shoulder your muskets to protect 
your shores, your proportion of arma¬ 
ments by sea was greater than it has been 
in almost any time of peace that I can 
find in my researches. I know they tell 
us that the French have got a number of 
men in their mercantile marine who are 
all inscribed on the maritime inscription 
of France, and that such inscription gives 
the Government the power to press those 
men into their service ; and you must 
consider that. Now, I say, take all the 
able-bodied seamen the French have in 
their mercantile marine, and add them 
to the men in the imperial navy, and it 
will not bring them up to the number we 
have in our royal navy. I am not one to 
advocate the reducing of our navy in 
any degree below that proportion to the 
French navy which the exigencies of our 
service require ; and, mind what I say, 
here is just what the French Government 
would admit as freely as you would. 
England has four times, at least, the 
amount of mercantile tonnage to protect 
at sea that France has, and that surely 







434 

a larger navy than France. Besides, this 
country is an island ; we cannot com¬ 
municate with any part of the world ex¬ 
cept by sea. France, on the other hand, 
has a frontier upon land, by which she 
can communicate with the whole world. 
We have, I think, unfortunately for our¬ 
selves, about a hundred times the amount 
of territory beyond the seas to protect, 
as colonies and dependencies, that France 
has. France has also twice or three times 
as large an army as England has. All 
these things give us a right to have a 
navy somewhat in the proportion to the 
French navy which we find to have 
existed if we look back over the past 
century. Nobody has disputed it. I 
would be the last person who would ever 
advocate any undue change in this pro¬ 
portion. On the contrary—I have said it 
in the House of Commons, and I repeat 
it to you—if the French Government 
showed a sinister design to increase their 
navy to an equality with ours; then, after 
every explanation to prevent such an 
absurd waste, I should vote ioo millions 
sterling rather than allow that navy to be 
increased to a level with ours—because 
I should say that any attempt of that sort 
without any legitimate grounds, would 
argue some sinister designs upon this 
country. 

I wish, therefore, not to be misinter¬ 
preted or misrepresented in what I say. 
What does the French Government say, 
in answer to these charges about their 
designs to invade us ? It is curious to 
remark howthey treat them. The French 
Government do not go and take stock 
of their navy, and insist that theirs is a 
small navy in proportion to ours ; that 
would be an amount of forbearance and 
transparent modesty on the part of the 
Government towards their own people 
such as we do not expect in this country. 
The French Government pocket what 
we say as to their navy, and only an¬ 
swer, in their public speeches and their 
Monitcur Officiel, ‘ Gentlemen, we spend 
little more than half what you do upon 
our navy; and if we have a navy 
so powerful that you are afraid of our 
•nvading you, we must make a great 


JUNE 26, 

deal better use of our money than 
you.’ 

I have dwelt, perhaps, not needlessly 
long on this subject. It lies at the 
bottom of more than many simple- 
minded men understand. But now I 
leave that question, and I come to ask, 
how is this to be altered ? How is this 
peaceable reform, amounting to some¬ 
thing almost revolutionary, of which 
Mr. Gladstone speaks—how is it to be 
accomplished? Why, I tell you candidly 
it cannot be accomplished by Parliament. 
If it cannot be accomplished by people 
out of doors, it won’t be accomplished at 
all. And this brings me to a subject on 
which I hope to deal when I meet you 
again expressly for its consideration; but 
it brings me to a question with regard 
to the present constitution of our Parlia¬ 
ment and our parties. We are brought 
to a dead lock. I appeal to my friend 
Mr. Bright, and my friend Mr. Bazley, 
and to Sir Charles Douglas, and other 
Members of Parliament, who, I under¬ 
stand, are present, and I say we are 
brought to a dead lock in the House of 
Commons. We can do nothing. There 
is one party in this year, and the other 
party in the next year, and neither party 
is inclined to do anything, because they 
expect next year they may go out and 
the other party may come in, and so the 
‘ outs ’ and ‘ ins ’ agree that nothing shall 
be done. Take the strongest party in 
the House of Commons, and the chief 
of that party, if he were to say that an 
orange shall be on the table in that 
position, and if the other party were to 
say that the orange should be there, no 
one would have power to prevent it. 
And so you see we are wasting our time 
and the public time in the House. I 
speak somewhat disinterestedly, for 
these reforms are not likely to lead to 
any very active occupation on my part ; 
but I tell you, who are younger than 
myself, who wish to make your country 
worthy of her antecedents, you who are 
the pith and marrow of the rising gener¬ 
ation—I tell you candidly that out of 
doors—I don’t mean the non-electors 
merely, but I address the electors whose 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 




i36i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


435 


handiwork has brought about this dead 
lock—that unless they address them¬ 
selves, by some decided and effective 
movement out of doors, to the remedying 
of these evils, your Parliamentary system, 
and the administration of your dockyards 
and public works, will be brought into 
a position which will be a scandal to the 
representative institutions which you 
have inherited from your fathers. 

When I last had the honour of ad¬ 
dressing you here, I spoke upon the 
subject of reform in Parliament. I had 
come back from America. I had been 
two years out of Parliament. I did not 
know much of what was going on there. 
I remember when coming to the meeting 
I spoke to my friend Mr. Bright, who 
said that in the House of Commons 
they were about to propose a moderate 
extension of the franchise, and that he 
hoped the question would be settled. I 
thought so too. But if I read the debates 
in Parliament aright when I was far 
away, it appears that the question is 
anything but settled. It seemed to me 
that parties when in office made a pro¬ 
fession of faith for reform in Parliament, 
and that when they got into Opposition 
they forgot their pledges ; and it seemed 
to me that then the voting and speaking 
were directly in opposition to their 
former professions. We have a Govern¬ 
ment coming in on this veiy Reform 
question, and we have a minister aban¬ 
doning the question. I don’t blame him 
so much for having actually postponed 
the question for a year, until he could 
get the census ; I blame him more for 
the manner in which it was postponed 
than for the act itself. But now you 
have the census. You have the returns, 
at least a portion of them—the great 
outlines of the census for 1861. They 
present a battery, an arsenal of facts 
which ought to be laid hold of by those 
who really wish to occupy themselves 
with the future destinies of their country, 
and ought to be made a ground of agi¬ 
tation—a movement for a complete and 
thorough reform of our representative 
system. I don’t speak now of merely 
the extension of the franchise. If you 


do not get this redistribution of electoral 
power, you cannot get on. Observe the 
facts brought out by the census. You 
have certain counties where your great 
cities and manufacturing industries are 
carried on. You see, there, people are 
growing in wealth and population. You 
see others, as Lincoln, Cambridge, 
Suffolk, Buckingham, Dorsetshire, and 
Wiltshire, counties which are either 
retrograding in numbers or absolutely 
stagnant. But when you go into the 
House of Commons, you find these stag¬ 
nant agricultural counties, and equally 
stagnant small agricultural boroughs, 
twenty or thirty of which have absolutely 
declined in population during the last 
ten years—you find the country governed, 
if it is governed at all, by the represent¬ 
atives of those stagnant counties and 
decaying rural villages. I cannot say it 
is governed, because I tell you our 
Parliamentary system has come to a 
negation. But if you are to give a fresh 
impetus to any measures of amelioration 
in the House of Commons, it must be 
by giving a new basis to political parties, 
by making that representation a reality 
which is now a fiction. Until you place 
the political parties and Government of 
this country upon the basis of reality, 
instead of a fiction, you will continue to 
have that scandalous waste of our time 
and resources which you see going on. 

I will assume that you have a redis¬ 
tribution of electoral power, so that it is 
allotted in something like a fair measure 
to the wealth and population of the 
country. Well, the first Parliament that 
was elected—if you had that reform— 
the first Parliament elected would have 
a Government, in all probability, which 
would see for its party, if not for its 
persons, the chance of a five, or seven, 
or ten years’ lease of power. It would 
have an Opposition; but that Opposition 
would not be expected to come in power 
the day, or week, or year after. Then 
that party would abandon all these 
questions of Parliamentary Reform. You 
would have a Government there, and a 
party there known to be sent up to effect 
a reformed state of things, and administer 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 26, 


436 

the state of things better than in that 
fashion so eloquently described by Mr. 
Gladstone. You would, on the other 
hand, have an Opposition which would 
not expect to come into office in the next 
year, but which might hope, by good 
behaviour, and by doing something to 
merit the confidence of the country, to 
come in in the course of a few years, as 
was the case under the late Sir R. Peel. 
Thus, it might hope to grow up into a 
majority of the House of Commons, 
and possess power. These parties would 
then be obliged to fall back upon some¬ 
thing tangible, solid, and useful to the 
country. You would place public men, 
like ourselves here on the platform, in 
the House of Commons, who go there, 
I humbly conceive, rather to promote 
objects which we believe to be beneficial 
to the country, than with the hope of 
partaking in the emoluments and hon¬ 
ours of official life. You would give us 
the consciousness of being there to fight 
some battle, and achieve some object 
worthy of the energies of men. Oh ! I 
look back with regret sometimes, and 
feel ashamed of the House of Commons, 
when I think of the years when I first 
entered that assembly, when there was 
a great line of demarcation between two 
great parties, when there was something 
at stake and worthy of the intellect, and 
worth growing older and greyer to 
accomplish ! What is there now to 
satisfy the ambition of any public man? 
I have given an outline of the subject, and 
it will be for younger men in the country, 
if the country is to prosper, to carry out 
the details. 

Before I sit down, I must say one word 
which affects our minds and spirits, and 
which meets us in our daily occupations 
—I refer to what is passing beyond tire 
Atlantic. My friend, Mr. Bright, and 
myself, have been called ‘ the two Mem¬ 
bers for the United States.’ We have 
admired their principles of non-interven¬ 
tion, and of economy in administration, 
and we have seen within the last two 
years the practical application of those 
principles in the affairs of Europe. I 
will not allude to the lamentable strife 


in America, further than to say, that I 
hope the principle of non-intervention 
will still be practised, notwithstanding 
the embarkation of two or three thou¬ 
sand soldiers for Canada. Let not our 
American friends consider this act done 
suspiciously, or to annoy : it is only in 
keeping with the system pursued at the 
Horse Guards, whenever a quarrel is 
going on. 

I have been written to, and requested 
to allude to the principles of co-operation 
which are now being tried in this neigh¬ 
bourhood. I am always glad to see 
anything done—and I think our capi¬ 
talists here will see their own interest in 
taking the same view of the question— 
that tends to bridge over and close up 
the great gulf which has hitherto separ¬ 
ated the two classes of capitalists and 
labourers. I want both classes to under¬ 
stand the difficulties of their position. I 
want the labourers to see that capital is 
nothing but hoarded labour, and that 
labour is nothing but the seed of capital 
—that for either to thrive both must 
prosper; that they cannot do one with¬ 
out the other; and if I said a word at 
this time, when there are dark clouds 
on the horizon, I would say it rather in 
a spirit of caution than in a spirit of in¬ 
citement. I would advise the labouring 
men to remember for a moment, when 
they are seeking to invest their hard- 
earned earnings, and to consider whether 
there is a safe prospect of obtaining 
the raw material upon which to apply 
their machinery at a moderate price, or 
whether there may not be other circum¬ 
stances calculated to throw the industry 
of this country into temporary disorder. 
For my own part, I confess I take for 
the future a sanguine view of the pros¬ 
pects of this region, and of Lancashire 
in general. I think it is possible the 
present difficulties in America may cause 
some temporary inconvenience to, and 
even derangement of, our industry, but 
I see good in the future coming out of 
the present state of things I think it 
will draw attention in all parts of the 
world, where the raw material of our 
industry can be produced, to the pro- 



i86i. 


FOREIGN POLICY. V. 


437 


duction of that raw material, and that 
in future we shall be less dependent 
upon one region for its supply than we 
have been. I have long ago come to 
this conclusion, that humanly speaking, 
in an industrious and intelligent popul¬ 
ation like this, it is hardly possible that 
you can have, for a long time, any great 
obstacle to that prosperity which does, 
and which ought to, attend upon hard 
and persevering labour and ingenuity, 
such as is manifested in this district. I 
am, and always have been, very sorry 
that the most extensive, the most inge¬ 
nious, and the most useful industry that 
ever existed on this earth, should have 
been dependent almost exclusively for 
the supply of the raw material upon an 
institution—the institution of slavery— 
which we must all regard as a very 
unsafe foundation, and, in fact, to the 
permanence of which we none of us can, 
as honest men, wish God-speed. 

Gentlemen, I have finished what I 
had to say. You will hear, and I dare 
say have heard, a great deal about the 
reaction which is going on. You will 
hear it said that everybody is turning 
Conservative. I think we have been the 
most Conservative. I think that myself, 
and my friend Mr. Bright, and many I 
see about me, who have voted for twenty 
years for what have been considered 
very revolutionary measures, have been 


the great Conservatives of our own age. 
To those men who say we are losing 
ground, and the Conservatives are gain¬ 
ing, I ask, What do you mean by Con¬ 
servatives ? What are they ? Do they 
mean the men who would have prevented 
the repeal of the Com-laws, or, if they 
could, would restore them? Do they 
mean the men who opposed the emanci¬ 
pation of the press, and who, if they 
could, would re-enact its shackles ? If 
the Conservatives are men who seek for 
progress, I say we are those men. If 
they are the men who are stagnant and 
retrograde, we say experience has taught 
us that those are the greatest destructives 
the body politic can contain. I am, 
therefore, not afraid of the progress, the 
liberty, and the prosperity of our indus¬ 
try in this country. All I can say is— 
inform yourselves upon the relations this 
country bears towards France and other 
countries. Don’t let yourselves be bam¬ 
boozled and terrified into panic to the 
neglect of your own domestic duties. 
Look to the present state of all political 
parties. Deal with the representation 
in Parliament, with the view to accom¬ 
plish such a change as will enable your 
representative institutions to work, and 
to continue for you that prosperity which 
has been growing for so long a time, 
since the enactment of the Reform Bill. 




FOREIGN POLICY. 

VI. 

HOUSE OF COMMONS, AUGUST i, 1862. 


In the very few remarks with which I 
shall trouble the House, it is not my 
intention to be the humble imitator of 
the able and eloquent men who, in this 
and the other House of Parliament, were 
formerly accustomed, at the close of our 
Parliamentary labours, to review the 
measures of the Session. No doubt 
there would be a good reason for my not 
following their example this evening, 
because I think there will be an absence 
of any measures to criticise. It is not 
my intention on this occasion to speak 
as a Member of any party, or as repre¬ 
senting other Members in this House. 
But I may say, that I know in what I 
have to state, that I am the exponent of 
the opinions of many Members of this 
House, both present and absent ; and, 
though I do not wish to assume the 
character of a political leader in any 
form, still, if I had yielded to some of 
the representations made to me, I should 
have made some such statement as I am 
about to make very much earlier in the 
Session. I repeat, that I do not profess 
here to be a party leader, and have 
never in this House cared much for party 
politics, for I have generally had some¬ 
thing to do outside of party ; but I am 
of opinion, that in a free representative 
community the affairs of public life must 
be conducted by party. A party is a 
necessary organisation of public opinion. 
If a party represents a large amount of 
public opinion, then the party fills an 


honourable post, and commands the 
confidence of its fellow-countrymen; 
but if a party has no principles, it has 
been called a faction ;—I would call it 
a nuisance. If a party violates its pro¬ 
fessed principles, then I think that party 
should be called an imposture. These 
are hard words, yet they are precisely 
the measures which, sooner or later, will 
be meted out to parties by public 
opinion ; and, late as it now is, it may 
be well if we, who represent both the 
majority and minority in this House, 
should view our position, in order to see 
how we shall be able to bear the inquest 
when the day comes, as it will come, for 
our conduct and our character to be 
brought into judgment. 

Now, with regard to the majority, 
which I suppose we on this side of the 
House may call ourselves, I shall take 
the liberty of reminding the House what 
have in former times been our professed 
principles. My hon. Friend evidently 
is in a doleful key, and does not seem 
to anticipate much gratification or re¬ 
nown from this investigation. In his 
case, however, I would make an excep¬ 
tion ; for, if I were called upon to make 
such a selection, he is the man I would 
fix upon as having been at all times, in 
season and out of season, true and faith¬ 
ful to his principles. What have been 
the professed principles of the so-called 
Liberal party? Economy, Non-inter¬ 
vention, Reform. Now, I ask my hon. 



AUG. I, 1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VI. 


439 


Friend—and it is almost a pity we can¬ 
not talk this matter over in private—if 
we were to show ourselves on some 
great fete-day, as ancient guilds and 
companies used to show themselves, 
with their banners and insignia floating 
in the air, and if we were to parade our¬ 
selves, with our chief at our head, with 
a flag bearing the motto, ‘ Economy, 
Retrenchment, and Reform ! ’ whether 
we should not cause considerable hilarity ? 
Of these three ancient mottoes of our 
party, I am inclined to attach the first 
consideration to the principle of Eco¬ 
nomy, because the other two may be 
said to have for their object to attain that 
end. 

Now, how has our party fulfilled its 
pledges on the principle of Economy ? 
Do my hon. Friends know to what extent 
they have sinned against the true faith 
in this respect ? Are they aware that 
this so-called Liberal party, the repre¬ 
sentatives of Economy, are supporting 
by far the most extravagant Government 
which has ever been known in time of 
peace; that we have signalised ourselves 
as a party in power by a higher rate of 
expenditure than has ever been known, 
except in time of war? I don’t mean 
merely that we have spent more money, 
because it might have happened that we 
had grown so much more numerous, and 
so much richer by lapse of years, that 
the proportionate amount of the burden 
on each individual was not greater ; but 
not only have we as a party spent more 
money absolutely, but we have been 
more extravagant relatively to the means 
and numbers of the people. I have a 
short return here, which throws some 
light on the subject. I was so struck 
with it, that I took a copy. It is a 
return moved for by the hon. Baro¬ 
net opposite, who has taken so much in¬ 
terest in financial questions (Sir H. 
Willoughby), and it is called a ‘ Return 
of the Taxation per Head,’ and it gives 
you the amount paid by each individual 
of the population at four different periods 
extending over thirty years. In 1830, 
the taxation per head was 2/. 4J. lid.; 
in 1840, it was 1 /. i8r. 2d.)— you had 


just realised then the benefits of the 
Reform Bill;—in 1850, it was 2/. ir. 5 d.- 
and in i860, it was 2/. 8r. id .; so that 
in this year, during the existence of the 
present Government, and while this 
party was in power, the amount of tax¬ 
ation per head was larger than had been 
known for thirty years, or, indeed, in 
any year of peace. Not only have we 
spent more money per head, but our 
own Chancellor of the Exchequer, who 
has taken considerable pains to investi¬ 
gate the point, and bring it clearly to 
our full appreciation, told us, not long 
ago, that the taxation of the country had 
increased faster than its wealth, between 
1843 and 1859. He told us that our 
expenditure had increased at a more 
than duplicate ratio to the increase of 
the wealth of the country. That is the 
statement of our own Chancellor of the 
Exchequer ; so that this so-called party 
of Economy has been the most extrava¬ 
gant Government which has been known 
by the present generation. 

Now, there is another illustration of 
this which I wish to bring home to my 
hon. Friends. How has this money been 
spent—on what has it been spent ? I 
will give you an illustration of the in¬ 
crease that has has taken place during 
the last four years. I will compare it—- 
I am sorry to have to do it ; but we must 
have the whole truth out and make a 
clean breast of it—with the expenditure 
of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I find 
that in the Estimates for 1862-3, given 
by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer in his Budget for this 
year—the army, the militia, navy, forti¬ 
fications, and packet service—(this last 
item was included in the Estimates of 
the right hon. Gentleman opposite, so I 
give it here to make the comparison fair) 

-—were put down at 29,916,000/. In 
the Estimates for 1858-9, laid before 
the House by the right hon. Gentle¬ 
man the Member for Buckinghamshire 
when he was in office, these same items 
amounted to 21,610,000/.,or 8,360,000/. 
less than our Estimates for this year. 
It is certainly wonderful how my hon. 
Friends can cry ‘ Hear, hear ! ’ with so 




AUG. I 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


440 

cheerful a voice. In these Estimates, I i 
have included the 1,200,000/. which has 
been voted for fortifications this year. It 
is a convenient thing for noble Lords and 
right hon. Gentlemen to pass the money 
voted for these fortifications out of sight, 
because it does not appear in the regular 
Estimates; but if we are spending 
1,200,000/. this year for fortifications, it 
is clear that that is so much taken from 
the available resources of the country, 
and it must fairly come into the expendi¬ 
ture of the year in order to make a com¬ 
parison. In these four years we have 
increased the Estimates for these services 
above those of the party preceding us in 
office by 8,300,000/.—more than at the 
rate of 2,000,000/. a year. How has 
that arisen ? On what ground can it be 
that we have increased these warlike 
Estimates by 8,000,000/. in these last 
four years—years of most profound, of 
most growing and increasing peace, so 
far as the tendency of affairs between this 
and neighbouring countries is concerned? 

This brings me necessarily to refer to 
the noble Lord at the head of the Go¬ 
vernment. One or two of my friends 
said to me before I began to speak, ‘ I 
hope you won’t be personal,’and I 
have had a warning to keep my temper. 

I will promise to be exceedingly good- 
tempered, and not to be personal more 
than I am obliged. But the noble Lord 
in this matter represents himself a policy. 

I don’t mean to absolve other parties 
who are with him from their responsi¬ 
bility in joining him. I don’t mean to say 
that the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
is not fairly responsible for the Estimates 
he brings forward. He may have his 
motives. He will give and take, pro¬ 
bably, and agree to spend more money 
in one direction one year, if he can get 
some concessions next year. There must 
be compromises, no doubt, when fifteen 
men are working together. But, so far 
as the primurn mobile of this expendi¬ 
ture is concerned, I cannot leave the 
noble Lord out of the question. He 
himself will not allow me to let him 
alone, because he is always first and fore¬ 
most when anything of this sort is to be 


proposed or defended. I have no hesi¬ 
tation in saying—and don’t let my hon. 
Friends think I am going to be personal 
—that I put the whole of this increased 
expenditure down to the credit of the 
noble Lord. I don’t excuse those who 
allow him to spend and waste the money 
of the country, but he is the primum 
mobile. I tell him now—for it is the best 
thing to be plain and open, and I say it 
to his face, for I don’t want to go down 
into the country and say it behind his 
back—that he has been first and fore¬ 
most in all the extravagant expenditure 
of the last twenty years. I have some¬ 
times sat down and tried to settle in my 
own mind what amount of money the 
noble Lord has cost this country. 

From 1840, dating from that Syrian 
business which first occasioned a perma¬ 
nent rise in our Estimates—by the way 
in which, in conjunction with the late 
Admiral Napier, he constantly stimu¬ 
lated and worried Sir Robert Peel to 
increased expenditure—taking into ac¬ 
count his Chinese wars, his Affghan, his 
Persian war; his expeditions here, there, 
and everywhere; his fortification scheme 
—which I suppose we must now accept 
with all its consequences of increased 
military expenditure — the least I can 
put down the noble Lord to have cost 
us is 100,000,000/. sterling. Now, with 
all his merits, I think he is very dear 
at the price. But how has the noble 
Lord managed to get this expenditure 
increased from the Budget of the right 
hon. Gentleman opposite in 1858 to the 
Budget of my right hon. Friend below 
by 8,300,000/. ? It has been by a 
constant and systematic agitation in 
this country. He has been the greatest 
agitator I know in favour of expensive 
establishments. It has always been, either 
in this House, or at a Lord Mayor’s 
feast, or at a school meeting, or a rifle 
corps meeting, or a mediaeval ceremony, 
such as the installation of a Lord Warden 
of the Cinque Ports at Dover, a cry of 
danger and invasion from France. It 
is a very curious and extraordinary thing. 
The noble Lord and his friends came 
into office on two grounds—that they 




1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VI. 


44» 


would give us a better Reform Bill than 
hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that they 
were the party which could always keep 
us on friendly terms with France. It 
has ended in their kicking Reform out 
of existence altogether, and we have had 
nothing but a cry of invasion from Franee 
ever since. This policy of the noble 
Lord has had two consequences. And 
when I speak of the noble Lord’s policy, 

I believe he is perfectly sincere, for the 
longer I live the more I believe in men’s 
sincerity. I believe they often deceive 
themselves, and often go wrong from 
culpable ignorance. The noble Lord 
shall not hear me impute motives, and 
least of all will I charge him with wil¬ 
fully and knowingly misrepresenting 
facts ; but the noble Lord’s ‘ idea’—he 
talked of the ‘ monomania’ of my hon. 
friend the Member for Liskeard in 
opposing his scheme—of the relations, 
between France and England, and the 
constant agitation he has kept up, have 
had these two effects. 

Now, this is a course which, in the 
first place, prevents the people of this 
country from attending to their own 
affairs, and precludes them from looking 
narrowly to the observance of a policy 
of economy in our expenditure. I do 
not mean to say the noble Lord intended 
that this should be the case, but there is 
a passage in a curious work which I have 
had brought to my recollection, and 
which is so completely illustrative of the 
position which the noble Lord occupies 
in relation to this question, that I cannot 
refrain from reading it. The passage to 
which I allude applies immediately and 
directly to the point under our notice, 
and although I do not suppose the noble 
Lord has been plotting and acting in the 
sense which it describes to attain his ends, 
yet, by a singular accident, his line of 
conduct is most whimsically and amus¬ 
ingly portrayed by Archbishop Whately 
in a treatise entitled, ‘ Historical Doubts 
Relative to Napoleon Bonaparte,’ which 
contains the extract which I am about to 
record. The work is well known ; it 
was written thirty years ago, and with 
the view of refuting sceptics by showing 


that very good arguments might be ad¬ 
vanced to prove that no such man as 
Napoleon Bonaparte had ever existed. 
This is the passage :— 

' Now it must be admitted that Bona¬ 
parte was a political bugbear, most conve¬ 
nient to any Administration :—" If you do 
not adopt our measures, and reject those 
of our opponents, Bonaparte will be sure 
to prevail over you ; if you do not submit 
to the Government, at least under our 
administration, this formidable enemy will 
take advantage of your insubordination to 
conquer and enslave you. Pay your taxes 
cheerfully, or the tremendous Bonaparte 
will take all from you." Bonaparte, in short, 
was the burden of every song : his terrible 
name was the charm which always suc¬ 
ceeded in unloosing the purse-strings of 
the nation.’ 

Now comes a very apt illustration of 
the course pursued by the noble Lord :— 

‘ And let us not be too sure, safe as we 
now think ourselves, that some occasion 
may not occur for again producing on the 
stage so useful a personage ; it is not merely 
to naughty children in the nursery that the 
threat of being “given to Bonaparte" has 
proved effectual.' 

That extract seems to me to completely 
represent the unconscious state of the 
noble Lord ; and I should like to know 
what other ground there is for his popu¬ 
larity with the country—for he is said to 
be a popular Minister. When I come, 
for instance, to ask a question about the 
introduction of a particular measure in 
this House, the answer I receive some¬ 
times is, ‘ Nothing can be done while 
the noble Lord is at the head of the 
Government;’ but assuming that he is 
as popular as he is said to be, I cannot 
imagine any other ground for that popu¬ 
larity than that he is supposed to be the 
vigilant guardian of the national safety. 
Now, you see, Archbishop Whately is 
quite correct; there are a good many 
‘ naughty children ’ behind the Treasury- 
bench. The noble Lord has been pro¬ 
tecting us against danger to the extent of 
8,000,000/. sterling, and the reasons 
given for his policy, though not satisfac¬ 
tory to me, are, it seems, very satisfac¬ 
tory to himself and those around him. 






442 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


AUG. i 


But the noble Lord’s fantasy has done 
more than spend our money and put 
reform out of the nation’s head ; it has 
also prevented an investigation, full and 
comprehensive, of the management going 
on in both branches of our public serv¬ 
ices, especially in the navy. The noble 
Lord told us that France was going to 
surpass us in naval power ; that she was 
first building one vessel and then another. 
All the while, however, it seems to me, 
the country was not made alive to the 
mismanagement and waste going on in 
our dockyards, which might have been 
sufficiently accounted for without refer¬ 
ring it to any aggressive designs on the 
part of France. We have had lately 
placed in our hands a very valuable 
pamphlet on this subject, written by Mr. 
Scott Russell, than whom there can be 
no better judge of the nature of ship¬ 
building, and the comparative merits of 
different kinds of vessels. He tells us 
that we have during the last thirty years 
spent 30,000,000/. in our dockyards for 
labour and material in the construction 
of a class of ships which are now totally 
useless, there being in our possession only 
two sea-going vessels which can be said 
to be really effective. He adds, Lhat he 
called the attention of the Government 
to the subject seven years ago ; yet there 
has been no investigation with respect to 
it, because this House and the public 
were diverted with the cry of a French 
invasion. 

Now, a series of articles have appeared 
in the Revue dcs Deux Mondes, written 
by M. Xavier Raymond, which I would 
recommend the noble Lord to read. 
The writer is, perhaps, one of the most 
competent authorities on the subject of 
the English and French navies whom, 
perhaps, you could find. He enters 
very much into detail with respect to it, 
and J hold in my hand an extract from 
one of his articles which I think very 
appropriate to the point to which I am 
referring : it is as follows :— 

The British Admiralty are always want¬ 
ing in foresight ; they do not even know 
what is going on at their very door. France 


had seven years previously abandoned the 
construction of sailing vessels, when in 1851 
the House of Commons forced a similar 
policy on the Admiralty. Four years had 
elapsed since the French Government 
had determined not to lay down anothei 
screw line-of-battle ship, when all of a sud¬ 
den, though somewhat late, the British 
Admiralty, discovering that we had nearly 
as many vessels as themselves, decided 
upon what the Queen's Speech ir. 1859 
called the reconstruction of the Navy. 
The moment was, most assuredly, most 
admirably chosen, seeing that it was noto¬ 
rious to the whole world, that from the year 
1855 France had not constructed a screw 
ship of the line, and that for a year the 
iron-clad La Gloire was visible under her 
shed at Toulon. Again, it has been neces¬ 
sary to wait till 1861, another seven years, 
before the Admiralty, conquered again by 
the House of Commons, renounced the 
construction of screw ships of the line. If 
this be not waste and improvidence, where 
on earth are they to be found?' 

Now, that is the judgment pronounced 
by an eminent writer thoroughly con¬ 
versant with the question with which he 
deals, and it is simply a repetition of 
what has been said by my hon. Friends 
the Member for Sunderland, the Member 
for Glasgow, the Member for Finsbury, 
and other hon. Gentlemen in this House. 
Yet, notwithstanding all this, nothing 
has been done to remedy the evils in our 
dockyards, of which complaint was made, 
while the country was constantly amused 
and stunned with the cry of French 
ambition and French invasion. I shall 
make only one other quotation from the 
writer in the Revue des Deux Mondes , 
whose name I have mentioned, but I 
would again entreat the noble Lord to 
read the whole of his articles during the 
recess. M. Xavier Raymond says :— 

‘Whenever the British Admiralty fall 
into some fresh scrape, when they find 
themselves left behind by the superior man¬ 
agement in the French dockyards, in order 
to extricate themselves from their dilemma 
they resort to an expedient which has never 
failed them, but which is little calculated 
to promote mutual goodwill between the 
two countries. It is an exhibition, certainly, 
of great cleverness, but cleverness of a very 



1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VI. 


443 


odious nature. Instead of candidly admit¬ 
ting their own shortcomings, they raise the 
charge of ambition against France, accuse 
her of plotsand conspiracies, andagitatethe 
country with groundless alarms of invasion ; 
and while thus obtaining the millions of 
money necessary to repair their blunders, 
we have, at the same time, the speeches of 
Lord Palmerston enunciating the singular 
theory, that to perpetuate the friendship of 
those two great nations it is necessary to 
push to the extreme limits the unproductive 
expenditure on their armaments.’ 

This, it appears to me, is a very seri¬ 
ous question. I do not believe the 
country or the House is at all aware 
of its full and extensive bearing on the 
circumstance, that we are at present 
without a fleet. 

I shall now, with the permission of the 
House, read an extract from an Ameri¬ 
can paper, to show what is thought 
on the subject on the other side of the 
Atlantic. This is a passage from an 
article in a late number of the New York 
Evening Post, in which the writer 
says :— 

‘ But it may be urged that the French 
and English flee Is would open the ports of 
the South in spite of our resistance. The 
answer to this is, that the experience of 
our civil war has taught us to despise such 
fleets as the French and English Govern¬ 
ments have now on foot, so far as attacks 
on our seaport towns are concerned. It 
has taught us to resist them by vessels 
sheathed in massive plates of iron, mighty 
engines encased in mail, too heavy for 
deep-sea navigation, but well adapted to 
harbour defence, and of power sufficient to 
crush in pieces and send to the bottom, 
with their crews, the wooden ships on which 
England has hitherto prided herself. With 
these engines we might sink the transport 
ships bringing the European armies, as 
soon as they appeared in our waters.’ 

Now, there is not, I think, an intelli¬ 
gent naval man who will not endorse 
that doctrine. Admiral Denman, in a 
pamphlet which has probably been 
placed in the hands of other hon. Mem¬ 
bers as well as my own, observes :— 

' And, again, with respect to the invul¬ 
nerable ships in which France has taken 


and kept the lead, it is equally agreed 
on all hands, that a fleet built of wood 
must be certainly destroyed in a conflict 
with iron-plated ships. A French author 
scarcely overstates the case when he com¬ 
pares an iron-plated ship among ships of 
wood to a lion among a flock of sheep.’ 

[Cheers.] I hear distinguished naval 
men cheering the sentiment, and there¬ 
fore I conclude it is unquestioned. If 
that be so, what becomes of the respons¬ 
ibility of the Government ? I see before 
me one of the greatest merchants in 
England. Suppose he, or some great 
wholesale dealer, employs a clerk to 
manage a large department of his busi¬ 
ness, as is constantly done, and finds 
some fine spring morning that depart¬ 
ment crammed with goods of a perfectly 
unsaleable character; suppose, more¬ 
over, this clerk or superintendent had 
ample opportunity of knowing what 
description of goods would be wanting 
in the market, do you think his employer 
would allow him to escape without a 
reprimand under the circumstances, espe¬ 
cially if he were to run up to him and 
say, ‘ Oh, we are quite out of the market. 
Mr. So-and-So has got suitable goods; 
we have no chance against him?’ Yet 
this is a parallel to the course which has 
been pursued by the Government. The 
Admiralty knew they were without a 
fleet capable of meeting modem vessels, 
but instead of coming down to the 
House, and being filled with remorse at 
their remissness in the discharge of their 
duties, they actually bully us, as the 
noble Lord has repeatedly done. When 
the noble Lord has said, ‘We are very 
inferior to France,’ he thinks he has 
shown quite sufficient ground for asking 
for 10,000,000/. or 15,000,000/. more 
in the Estimates, without giving any 
explanation of the 30,000,000/. which 
have already been squandered. 

The present Government, not confin¬ 
ing itself to the money wasted on our 
armaments, for which we are partly re¬ 
sponsible, is laying the ground for future 
expenses, the magnitude of which no 
one can know. And here I must warn 
my hon. Friends round me, that, unless 





444 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


AUG. x, 


they detach themselves from this policy, 
they will, as a party, rot out of existence 
with such a load of odium, that a Liberal 
party will never be tolerated, and will 
stink in the nostrils of the people ever 
afterwards. Look at the vast expendi¬ 
ture for fortifications. Does anybody 
doubt that that is entirely the work of 
the noble Lord ? Anybody who has sat 
and seen the votes upon those Estimates 
must be convinced that the expenditure 
on fortifications is solely, individually, 
and personally the act of the noble Lord. 
It is the price which we pay for—I sup¬ 
pose I may call it—his obstinacy. But 
we are very much mistaken if we sup¬ 
pose that the expense of those fortifica¬ 
tions will end when the bricks and 
mortar are done with. During the first 
debate on the subject, I put under the 
gallery an artillery officer, well known 
in this House, who filled the highest 
posts and a front rank in the war in the 
Crimea. The next day, on returning to 
the country, he wrote me a letter, in 
which he said in substance,—‘ I heard 
the debate the whole evening, and I 
cannot see any motive for this fortifica¬ 
tion scheme, but this. It is not to pro¬ 
tect us against a foreign enemy, because, 
if an enemy landed, these fortifications 
would be an inconvenience and a danger 
to us. I can make nothing out of them 
but this,—they are to be a future excuse 
for keeping 30,00x0 more men in the 
country than in time of peace. ’ I believe 
that was also the opinion expressed by a 
gallant officer opposite. All this is done 
by the Liberal party. That is what we 
shall have to be responsible for. Why, 
our very children will shrink from the 
imputation of having had fathers belong¬ 
ing to so foolish, so extravagant, and so 
profligate a body. 

Take, again, this affair of China. 
Hon. Members will recollect what was 
stated by the right hon. Gentleman the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer when he 
brought forward his Budget, or, if they 
do not, I will refresh their memories by 
reading a short extract. The right hon. 
Gentleman, in his Budget speech on the 
3rd of April, 1862, after having put 


the charge for China at 7 > 554 >°°°f> 
adds this remark, * which I trust will 
be the end, strictly speaking, of the 
charge for the China war.’ We have 
since that gone headlong into an inter¬ 
vention in that country, the ultimate 
dimensions of which no one can foretell. 
It is entirely taken from our control, and 
what I hear in all directions is, that we 
shall have China upon our hands just 
as we have India. The North China 
Herald, published at Shanghai, tells us 
so in plain language :— 

‘ We again warn our countrymen whose 
good fortune it is to dwell in marble halls 
in their own native sea-girt island, not to 
fancy we can pause in this work of redemp¬ 
tion. . . . The end may not be very far 
off; and if any of our readers seek to in¬ 
quire of us what that end will be, we openly 
reply, nothing short of the occupation of 
this rich province by Great Britain. We 
have no hope of the Imperialists.' 

When I saw the vote of the House upon 
that subject—when I saw that the ma¬ 
jority which supported the noble Lord 
included a great number of the other 
side of the House, led by the right hon. 
Gentleman the Member for the Uni¬ 
versity of Cambridge, I could not help 
exclaiming, ‘ Where is the Conservatism 
of this land ? ’ Ido not know a more 
rash or a more reckless proceeding. It 
is a matter of course for the noble Lord 
at the head of the Government; but 
why should Conservatives lend them¬ 
selves to such proceedings ? Do we not 
see that in this and every other country 
public opinion from time to time turns 
round and judges not parties but the 
governing classes of the State? The 
time may arrive, as it does once in 
every twenty or thirty years, when 
power is thrown into the hands of the 
great masses of the people, and who 
can tell that the people will not judge 
the governing classes by these proceed¬ 
ings ? Here is a country to which your 
exports for the last seven years have not 
averaged more than 3 per cent., and 
for that infinitesimal fraction of business 
you are meddling with the affairs of 
400,cxx 3 ,000 of people ! You are going 




1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VI. 


445 


into a country eight times as large as 
that of France, which is in a state of 
complete revolution, not merely with 
one rebellion, because your blue-books 
tell you there are other rebellions besides 
the Taepings, which the Imperial Go¬ 
vernment is quite unable to put down. 
We have got into this entirely because 
the noble Lord happens to be at the 
head of affairs. This is one of the evils 
arising out of the idiosyncrasy of the 
noble Lord for this kind of intervention, 
or what, in vulgar phraseology, I might 
call ‘ filibustering.’ The noble Lord 
has such a predilection for this kind of 
sensation policy, that let an admiral or 
a general commit any act of violence, 
and he is sure to be backed up by the 
noble Lord. He acts on that assumption, 
and he acts wisely, and gets promoted. 
Let him send home a bulletin of any 
outrageous act, and I will engage that 
the noble Lord will back him. In this 
case of China, the instructions of Earl 
Russell were most explicit against inter¬ 
fering at all. Your commanders had 
instructions not to interfere ; but when 
they began these raids and excursions, 
they knew the noble Lord would back 
them, and the House, in an incautious 
moment, and owing very much to the 
illogical step of the right hon. Member 
for Cambridge, for whom I have a great 
respect, and aided by Members op¬ 
posite, committed us to these rash 
proceedings. 

Who can tell what is the state of our 
finances at this moment ? My right hon. 
Friend, at the opening of the Session, 
drew the lines very close. I remember 
he produced a sensation when he came 
out with his Budget — ‘ Expenditure, 
70,000,000/. ; income, 70,000,000/ ; sur¬ 
plus, 150,000/’ I believe it was con¬ 
sidered very close shaving. But has he 
got that 150,000/ surplus? He was 
obliged to assume that the troops in China 
would come back. They have not come 
back. It is stated in a report of a com¬ 
mittee, that the Estimates are deranged 
by that proceeding. Our representatives 
ordered the troops to go to Shanghai, and 
there they have remained. They have 


not come home, and that will more than 
take away the surplus, which I believe 
lost a little bit in hops and beer licences. 
Looking to the state of the revenue- 
looking to what must happen in the next 
winter—looking to what must happen to 
affect our prospects—is it not a most 
rash and lamentable dilemma into which 
we have rushed under the leadership of 
the noble Lord in this affair of China ? 
I do not say that I exonerate his col¬ 
leagues. But when I am dealing with 
an army, I like to take the General. 
When I am dealing with a party, and 
the chief is near me, I speak to him. 

Then, again, the exhibition in Canada 
is just on a par with it. When my hon. 
Friend the Member for Birmingham 
spoke on that subject, I intended to 
come and speak too, but in the early 
spring I was denied the use of my voice. 
I will say a word or two upon it now. 

I know that country well. I have been 
along the frontier from St. Lawrence to 
Lake Michigan. I know both sides. I 
know the population. I have been there 
more than once. That, again, was a 
sensation policy, on a par with the sens¬ 
ation articles of the New York papers. 
In November, the noble Lord hears that 
a vessel has been stopped by an American 
cruiser. He heard before the middle of 
December, by the American Minister, 
that that act was without the instruc¬ 
tions or the cognisance of the American 
Government, and he had full reason to 
believe that the whole thing would be 
explained and satisfactorily arranged. 
Then I will give gentlemen their own 
way, and say the noble Lord had not full 
reason to believe that the whole thing 
would be satisfactorily arranged. It 
makes no difference in what I am about 
to state. The frontier of Canada is her¬ 
metically closed by ice and snow till the 
month of March. The noble Lord 
hurried over 8,000 or 10,000 troops to 
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and 
many, to my knowledge, are there still, 
and have not reached Canada at all. 
The noble Lord sent supplies and sledges, 
which all the horses in Canada could not 
have drawn, but must have been put on 







446 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


AUG. I, 


the sledges of the country, so that the 
sooner they were burnt the better. All 
these hasty, rash proceedings were done 
before the noble Lord would wait to hear 
what the answer was from the American 
Government. If he had waited until the 
first week in January, he would still have 
had three months to send out reinforce¬ 
ments before operations on the lakes and 
rivers which divide Canada from America 
were possible. Our troops were not 
wanted in Canada in the depth of winter; 
they might as well have been at home. 
To spend a million of money in that way 
—money which would have solaced the 
hearts and homes of the famishing people 
in Lancashire—was a wanton waste of 
public treasure. It was part of the policy 
of the noble Lord, which has always 
been a ‘ sensation ’ policy, the object be¬ 
ing to govern the country by constantly 
diverting its attention from home affairs 
to matters abroad. 

Such are the grounds upon which I 
think we, as a party, have no reason to 
congratulate ourselves upon the close of 
the present Session. But I want to say a 
word upon the relation of parties in this 
House. I say the state of parties in this 
House—speaking logically, for I do not 
wish to give offence—is not an honest 
state of things. The reason is, that the 
noble Lord is not governing the country 
with the assistance of his own party. I 
have no hesitation in telling the noble 
Lord, that if the party opposite had at 
any time during the last six weeks or two 
months brought forward a motion of 
want of confidence in the Government, 
there would have been found Members 
on this side in sufficient numbers to give 
them an opportunity of carrying that 
motion. Why have the party opposite 
not taken that course ? I will tell my 
whole mind to hon. Gentlemen opposite 
now. I have spoken plainly to my own 
party ; often before I have taken the 
liberty to speak as plainly to the party 
opposite, and they have never treated 
me the worse for it. I will tell them 
why they do not propose a vote of want 
of confidence in the noble Lord. It is 
because large numbers of them have I 


greater confidence in him than they 
have in their own chief. What said the 
right hon. Gentleman the Member for 
Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) 
on that occasion when he refused to 
stand to his guns in the premeditated 
attack on the Government ? The right 
hon. Gentleman said—I will merely give 
the substance—the right hon. Gentleman 
said, that Lord Derby, his friend, had 
stated publicly and privately to his 
party, that he did not wish to displace 
the noble Lord. Have hon. Gentlemen 
opposite sufficiently appreciated the full 
bearing of that ? What becomes of go¬ 
vernment by party? To whom is the 
noble Lord responsible if he is to carry 
on his Government with the assistance 
of hon. Gentlemen opposite ? I have 
no hesitation in saying, that the party 
on the other side are in power without 
the responsibilities of office. Do you 
think the country will allow such a state 
of things to last? I know there are many 
hon. Gentlemen opposite who have con¬ 
fidence in the noble Lord, because they 
think he is—I will not say as good a 
Conservative as any of them, for I regard 
myself as one of the most conservative 
politicians of my age—but as good a 
Tory as any of them. If the noble Lord 
is not responsible to us as a party, but 
if hon. Gentlemen opposite keep him in, 
and enable him to carry measures against 
the wishes of a considerable section of 
those who sit on this side, he is and must 
be a sort of despot as long as that state 
of things lasts. But do you imagine it 
will last after it becomes known to the 
country ? It is unnecessary to mince 
the matter. We meet on equal terms in 
the library and committee-rooms, and 
we hear in all directions that the noble 
Lord pleases many hon. Gentlemen op¬ 
posite better than their own chief. That 
is the truth ; and the reason is, that he 
has a greater dislike to reform, and 
spends more money, than the right hon. 
Gentleman the Member for Bucks. 

But don’t you think that game is 
nearly played out ? The noble Lord 
has affected to play a popular part, and 
he has had what the French call a 




1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VI. 


447 


claqueur in the press, who has done his 
work very well. Let us try the noble 
Lord as a Liberal Minister by his acts. 
How does the noble Lord treat his own 
party on questions in which many of 
them take a great and conscientious 
interest? Take, for instance, the ques¬ 
tion of the Ballot. I am not going to 
argue the right or wrong of that ques¬ 
tion. I look upon it as far more a moral 
than a political question, and I believe 
the Conservatives are under as great a 
delusion about the Ballot as they were 
about the Corn-laws. If we had the 
Ballot for five years, they would be as 
loth to give it up as we should be. 
Wherever I have seen it in operation, it 
has thrown an air of morality over the 
process of voting. There has been an 
absence of violence, there has been no 
riot, no drunkenness, no noisy music ; 
the whole proceeding has been as quiet 
and orderly as going to church. How, 
then, does the noble Lord treat the 
question of the Ballot ? Whenever it is 
brought on, does he not ostentatiously 
get up and place himself in the front 
rank of its opponents, ridiculing and 
throwing contumely upon the Ballot 
and those who advocate it ? Then there 
is the question of Church-rates. How 
has it fared under the leadership of the 
noble Lord ? Seven years ago, we were 
in a triumphant majority on the Church- 
rate question. Mark how our majority 
has dwindled down under the auspices 
of the noble Lord. First, it came to a 
tie, when the question had to be decided 
by the casting-vote of the Speaker, and 
then there was a majority of one against 
us. If, when we had a large majority 
against the Church-rates, we had had a 
leader such as the party on this side 
ought to insist on having, that leader 
would have taken up the question, and 
have dealt with it in a becoming manner. 
Take, again, such questions as the 
Burials Bill, the Marriage Affinity Bill, 
and the Grammar School Bill. All 
those measures, in which many hon. 
Gentlemen on this side take a deep in¬ 
terest, and which touch the consciences 
of religious bodies returning Liberal 


Members, are going back under the 
leadership of the noble Lord. Why is 
that ? It is because the noble Lord is 
known to be not very much in earnest 
about any of these things. The conse¬ 
quence is, that the conduct of the whole 
party becomes slack, and the principles 
advocated by the party lose ground. 
What has been the course of the noble 
Lord in the case of the Poaching Bill ? 
I think hon. Gentlemen opposite had 
better not press that measure. I cannot 
sit here until three o’clock in the morn¬ 
ing to vote against them, but I would 
urge them to take the advice of the 
Nestor of their party, and to drop the 
Bill. But what is the conduct of the 
noble Lord on that subject ? The Home 
Secretary opposes the Bill, moving many 
amendments, and he gives very good 
reasons for doing so. There have been 
innumerable divisions by day and night, 
but have you ever found the noble Lord 
voting against the Bill ? No ; he has 
given one vote, I believe, to help the 
Bill to be introduced, but he has not 
given a single vote against it. Why? 
Because he knows exactly how to please 
hon. Gentlemen opposite. He says in 
effect, ‘ I do not act along with these 
low people around me ; I sit here, but I 
am doing your work for you.’ I take 
another question, — the Thames Em¬ 
bankment. I think there never was so 
audacious an attempt made to sacrifice 
the interests of the many to the foolish 
and blind convenience of the few. How 
did the noble Lord act in that matter? 
He wanted delay, spoke about what 
might be done at some future time, but 
he did not vote for putting an end to 
the monstrous assumption at once. 

How does all this operate? It operates 
in two ways to serve the party opposite. 
In the first place, hon. Gentlemen op¬ 
posite have their own way in everything; 
and, in the next place, the Liberal party 
is being destroyed for the future. The 
longer we sit here and allow ourselves 
to be treated with contumely through 
the questions in which we take an in¬ 
terest, the weaker we shall become, and 
the oftener we shall be defeated by our 





448 

opponents on the other side. All this 
comes entirely from the character and 
conduct of the noble Lord. I have 
never taken much part in personal 
politics or change of parties, but I have 
considered what alternative we have 
before us. The game is played out; it 
can’t be repeated next spring. I have 
had communications from hon. Gentle¬ 
men which assure me that cannot be 
repeated. There are many Members 
gone, as well as many present, who 
have too much self-respect to allow such 
a state of things to continue. I may be 
asked to face the alternative always put 
by those who sit behind the Treasury- 
benches— ‘Would you like to see the 
Conservatives in power?’ Well, I 
answer that by saying, rather than con¬ 
tinue as we are, I would rather see 
myself in opposition. Let the Liberal 
party be in opposition, and then you 
will have the opportunity of uniting and 
making your influence felt, because you 
will have popular support, inasmuch as 
you will be acting up to your principles; 
but you are only being demoralised 
while you allow a Session to expire as 
this has done. I am not creating this 
state of things; I am only anticipating 
by a very few days what would explode 
in the country whenever Members went 
before their constituents. Such a state 
of things, I repeat, cannot be allowed to 
go on. When I came into this House 
in 1841, I went into opposition, Sir 
Robert Peel having then a majority of 
ninety votes. The five years we then 
passed in opposition were employed in 
laying the foundations of a public policy 
and in moulding public opinion to prin¬ 
ciples which have been in the ascendant 
ever since, and which have been identi¬ 
fied with an augmentation in the pros¬ 
perity and wealth of the country more 
than any other measures which were 
ever passed before. That was the work | 


aug. r, 1862. 

I of the Opposition ; and I believe the 
same work would go on now, if we sat 
on the benches opposite. I have no 
hesitation in saying, if you compare the 
noble Lord with the right hon. Member 
for Buckinghamshire, the right hon. 
Gentleman would be quite as desirable 
for the Liberal party to sit on that (the 
Treasury) bench as the noble Viscount. 
Let us be in opposition. But if we go 
on as we have been, where shall we find 
ourselves in a short time ? Where will 
be our principles, where our party? 
Look at the Irish Members. I see with 
great regret what is going on in Ireland. 

I am afraid I shall by-and-by find myself 
in alliance with the Orangemen, and we 
may reach that lowest step of degrada¬ 
tion, of going to a general election with 
the cry of ‘No Popery!’ There is no 
amount of reaction we may not appre¬ 
hend, if this state of things goes on. 
Some seem to think that this state of 
things is attributable to a Conservative 
reaction in the country. I believe with 
the noble Lord the Member for Lynn 
(Stanley), that it is a delusion to talk of 
reaction. Whoever may be in power, 
we cannot go on for two successive 
Sessions with such an Administration 
as we have had this Session. Therefore, 

-—facing even that worst alternative, 
that we have no one to lead us, I say, 
let us get into opposition, and we shall 
find ourselves rallied to our principles. 

I have spoken thus freely because I 
thought there was a necessity for it. 
What I have said (if there be in the 
words I have used any force of truth and 
logic) will have influence ; if not, the 
words I have spoken will fall as wind. 
But, whatever happens, I know I speak 
in an assembly where there is a spirit of 
frankness, liberty, and manliness to hear 
and judge what I have said. I thank 
the House for the kindness with which 
they have listened to me. 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 










FOREIGN POLICY. 

VII. 

MANCHESTER, OCTOBER 25, 1862. 


[The following Speech was delivered before the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. It is 
well known that at the conclusion of the Crimean war, an attempt was made by general 
congress of the great Powers to put down privateering. The American Government 
agreed to the suggestion, provided the Powers assented to the rule, that unarmed 
vessels should be no longer liable to capture. But public opinion was not ripe for such 
a change. After the peace of Paris, however, negotiations having the same end were 
entered upon again, and Lord Palmerston became quite willing to adopt this reform 
in international law. But for some reason, which it is not difficult to guess at, President 
Buchanan's Government dropped these negotiations during the year i860.] 


It is now very nearly twenty-four years 
ago—on the 20th of December, 1838— 
that this Chamber met, and after a dis¬ 
cussion of two days, which attracted the 
attention of the whole kingdom, put 
forth to the world its manifesto in favour 
of the total repeal of the Corn-laws, and 
the abolition of all protective duties on 
manufactured goods. To that proceed¬ 
ing, more than anything else that occur¬ 
red, may be attributed the struggle which 
endured so long, which ended in the com¬ 
plete triumph of Free-trade principles 
in this country, and which will ultimate¬ 
ly extend its influence throughout the 
world. We met then under circumstances 
of great peril and disaster, in consequence 
of a failure in the harvest, which inflicted 
much suffering upon the whole nation. 
We meet now under circumstances 
somewhat different, but when I amafraid 
a still greater calamity threatens your 
particular district, arising out of the 
operation of the American commercial 
blockade. We met, in 1838, to discuss 
a remedy against famine in the repeal of 
\he Corn-laws ; we now meet to devise 


a remedy for present ills in the consider¬ 
ation of the question of Maritime Laws 
and Belligerent Rights. 

It is deplorable that we are never 
roused to the consideration of grave 
errors in legislation until we are suffering 
under the evils which they entail. It 
would be well if it were otherwise ; but 
it is useless to quarrel with the constitu¬ 
tion of man. We are not mere abstrac¬ 
tions ; and if the visitation of a calamity 
such as that which has now befallen us 
has the effect of leading us to devise a 
remedy against its recurrence, perhaps 
that is as much as we have a right to 
expect from human wisdom and fore¬ 
thought. There are two points of re¬ 
semblance between the old protective 
system and that code of maritime law 
which we are assembled to consider. 
Both had their origin in barbarous and 
ignorant ages, and both are so unsuit¬ 
ed to the present times, that, if they 
are once touched in any part, they 
will crumble to pieces under the hands 
of the reformer. Upon that account, 
we ought to be thankful that, in the 
29 




45° 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 25 , 


negotiation of the Treaty of Paris, in 
1856, the Plenipotentiaries—I do not 
know why, for they were not urged at 
the time to deal with the subject—ven¬ 
tured upon an alteration in the system of 
international maritime law. You are 
aware that, at the close of the Crimean 
war, the Plenipotentiaries, meeting in 
Congress at Paris, made a most import¬ 
ant change in maritime law, as affecting 
belligerents and neutrals. They decided, 
that in future, neutral property at sea, 
during a time of war, should be re¬ 
spected when in an enemy’s ship, and 
that enemy’s property should be re¬ 
spected when under a neutral flag ; and 
they also decided that privateering should 
in future be abolished. These propo¬ 
sitions, after being accepted by almost 
every country in Europe, with the ex¬ 
ception, I believe, of Spain, were sent 
to America, with a request for the 
adhesion of the American Government. 
That Government gave in their adhesion 
to that part of the Declaration which 
affirmed the rights of neutrals, claiming 
to have been the first to proclaim those 
rights; but they also stated, that they 
preferred to carry out the resolution, 
which exempted private property from 
capture by privateers at sea, a little 
further; and to declare that such pro¬ 
perty should be exempted from seizure, 
whether by privateers or by armed Go¬ 
vernment ships. Now, if this counter¬ 
proposal had never been made, I con¬ 
tend that, after the change had been 
introduced affirming the rights and 
privileges of neutrals, it would have 
been the interest of England to follow 
out the principle to the extent proposed 
by America. I say so, because an 
attempt has been made to evade the 
question by making it appear that the 
proposal is an American one, and that 
we are asked to take it at second-hand. 
But, I repeat, after the Congress of 
Paris had affirmed the rights and 
privileges of neutrals, Englishmen had, 
above all other people in the world, an 
interest in extending the Declaration so 
as to include the exemption of private 
property from capture by armed Govern¬ 


ment vessels. It has been said that the 
Americans were not sincere in their 
proposals, and that their object in sub¬ 
mitting a counter-proposition was to 
evade the fair consideration and accept¬ 
ance of the Declaration as a whole. 
Now, it is probably not generally known 
that the very proposal which the Ameri¬ 
can Government have submitted within 
the last five years was made by them in 
the first Treaty with England, after the 
Declaration of Independence, eighty 
years ago. It had its origin with that 
great man, Dr. Franklin, who carried 
into his diplomacy, as into his philosophy, 
a high and genial principle of philan¬ 
thropy. In the Autobiographical Memoirs 
of Thomas Jefferson , I find the' following 
passage :— 

' During the negotiations for peace with 
the British Commissioner, David Hartley 
(at the close of the War of Independence), 
our Commissioners proposed, on the sug¬ 
gestion of Dr. Franklin, to insert an article, 
exempting from capture, by the public or 
private armed ships of either belligerent, all 
merchant-vessels and their cargoes employ¬ 
ed merely in carrying on the commerce be¬ 
tween nations. It was refused by England, 
and unwisely, in my opinion. For, in the 
case of a war with us, their superior com¬ 
merce places them infinitely more at hazard 
on the ocean than ours ; and as hawks 
abound in proportion to game, so our 
privateers would swarm in proportion to 
the wealth exposed to their prize, while 
theirs would be few for want of subjects of 
capture.’ 

It is not my intention to dwell further 
upon the question respecting the exemp¬ 
tion of private property from capture at 
sea by armed Government ships. That 
question has been dealt with in two 
addresses, issuing from this Chamber and 
the Chamber of Liverpool, and those 
addresses, published about two years 
ago, practically exhaust the subject, leav¬ 
ing me nothing to say upon it. But, as 
I have already said, the whole system 
of maritime law, when once touched, 
crumbles to pieces. When I heard of 
the intention of the hon. Member for 
Liverpool to bring before the House the 
subject of the exemption of private pro- 





1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


pertyfrom capture at sea, I immediately 
observed that he was mooting a question 
so intimately connected with that of com¬ 
mercial blockades, that the two could 
not be kept apart. Mr. Horsfall, who 
submitted his motion with considerable 
ability, was disinclined to embrace in his 
proposal any allusion to the system of 
commercial blockades; but my experi¬ 
ence in the discussion of public affairs 
teaches me that it is vain to attempt to 
conceal any part of your subject when it 
has to go before the public and to be 
discussed with intelligent adversaries. If 
there is any part that you intend to leave 
out, and your opponents see that you 
consider it a weak point, they are sure 
to lay hold of it and to press it against 
you. So it turned out in the debate on 
Mr. Horsfall’s motion. He was told, of 
course, that if you exempt private pro¬ 
perty from capture at sea during war, 
you must also consent to give up the 
system of commercial blockades. There 
is no doubt about it. To exempt a cargo 
of goods from capture when it happens 
to be on the ocean, but to say that it may 
be captured when it gets within three 
miles of a port — or, in other words, to 
declare that a cargo may be perfectly 
free to roam the sea, when once out of 
harbour, but may be captured, if caught, 
before it gets three miles from land—is to 
propose that which cannot be practically 
carried into effect in negotiations or 
treaties with other countries. In addi¬ 
tion, therefore, to the question of the 
exemption of private property, you have 
to consider the larger question of com¬ 
mercial blockades. I say it is the larger 
question, because the capture of private 
property at sea affects, necessarily, only 
the merchants and shipowners of the 
countries which choose to go to war; 
whereas a commercial blockade affects 
neutrals as well, and the mischief is not 
confined to the merchants and ship¬ 
owners, but is extended to the whole 
manufacturing population; it may in¬ 
volve the loss of subsistence, and even of 
health and life, to multitudes of people, 
and may throw the whole social system 
into disorder. It will thus be seen that 


45* 

the question of commercial blockades is 
one of greater importance to England 
than that of the capture of private pro¬ 
perty at sea—which was the principal 
reason why I ventured to seek an oppor¬ 
tunity of speaking to you to-day. 

In discussing the subject of commer¬ 
cial blockades, I must again refer to 
what has taken place in our relations 
with America. The American Govern¬ 
ment were the first to perceive, after 
they had proposed to Europe to exempt 
private property from capture at sea, 
that the proposal involved the question 
of commercial blockades. It is no merit 
on the part of the United States that 
they have been the first to view the ques¬ 
tion in the light in which it affects neu¬ 
trals, nor is it a proof of their disinterest¬ 
edness. I do not mention the fact to 
their praise or blame. They have been 
the great neutral Power among nations; 
they came into existence and acquired 
an immense trade, while holding them¬ 
selves aloof from European politics, 
always acting upon the maxim, from the 
time of Washington, that they should 
remain outside the ‘balance of power,’ 
and everything that could entangle them 
in European quarrels. Hence it hap¬ 
pened that, whenever a war occurred in 
Europe, it was their commerce, as the 
commerce of neutrals, which suffered 
most. They have not shared the enjoy¬ 
ment of the fight, but they have always 
borne the brunt of the enforcement of 
the maritime laws affecting neutrals, and 
therefore they have naturally from the 
first sought to protect their own legiti¬ 
mate and honest interests by pressing 
the rights of neutrals in all their negoti¬ 
ations on the subject of international 
maritime law. It is a curious circum¬ 
stance, though I wish to guard myself 
against being supposed to attach undue 
importance to it, that on the breaking 
out of the war in Italy, in 1859, between 
France and Austria, the American Go¬ 
vernment sent to all their representatives 
in Europe a despatch on the subject of 
international maritime law, in which 
they, for the first time, broached in a prac¬ 
tical form to the European Governments 








452 

the idea of abolishing altogether the 
system of commercial blockades. That, 
I say, is a remarkable circumstance, 
when viewed in the light of subsequent 
events; because there is no doubt that 
if, in 1859, the English Government, 
followed as it would have been by the 
other Governments of Europe, had ac¬ 
cepted cordially and eagerly, as it was 
our interest to have accepted it, the pro¬ 
posal or suggestion of the American 
Government, it would have been possible 
to avoid all that is now happening in 
Lancashire; and trade, as far as cotton 
is concerned, would have been free 
between Liverpool and New Orleans. 
For you will bear in mind, that, though 
it may be said that the war in America 
is but a rebellion or a civil war, the 
European Powers recognise the block¬ 
ade of the Southern ports only as the act 
of a belligerent. It has been distinctly 
intimated to the United States Govern¬ 
ment that we do not recognise their 
municipal right in the matter; and if 
they were to proclaim, for example, that 
Charleston was not to be traded with, 
and did not keep a sufficient force of ships 
there, we should go on trading with the 
port just as if nothing had occurred. It 
is only upon condition that the blockade 
shall be effectively maintained, as be¬ 
tween belligerents, that the European 
Powers recognise it at all. Hence, there 
can be no doubt, that if the proposal of 
the American Government in 1859 had 
been cordially accepted by England, it 
would have been welcomed by the rest 
of Europe, and have prevented the exist¬ 
ing state of things in this district—a 
circumstance which shows the extraor¬ 
dinary and sudden mutations to which 
the relations of the various human fami¬ 
lies are exposed. There can be no doubt 
that in that case the American Govern¬ 
ment would have been obliged to carry 
on the war with the Southern States 
without imposing a commercial blockade ; 
or, if they had attempted to establish such 
a blockade, in violation of their inter¬ 
national engagements, they would have 
involved themselves in hostilities with 
the rest of the world—a policy which, of 


OCT. 25, 

course, no rational Government would 
ever dream of entering upon. I mention 
this as a fact which gives great signifi¬ 
cance to our meeting, and great oppor¬ 
tuneness to the discussion of this question; 
but I do not insist upon it in the way of 
blame to any one. Diplomatic arrange¬ 
ments, especially when they involve a 
novelty, are never made in such a way, 
unless when an amateur diplomatist 
interferes, as to warrant us to hope that 
in a year or two so great a change — 
indeed, a revolution in international 
maritime law — as the one proposed by 
the American Government, could have 
been accomplished. I mention the cir¬ 
cumstance, not by way of blame to any 
one for the past, but to draw a most 
serious inference from it for the future. 

We are now suffering from the oper¬ 
ation of a commercial blockade—suffer¬ 
ing in a way which could not be matched 
by any other calamity conceivable in 
the course of nature, or the revolutions 
of men. I cannot conceive anything 
that could have befallen Lancashire so 
calamitous, so unmanageable, so utterly 
beyond the power of remedy or the pos¬ 
sibility of being guarded against, as that 
which has happened in the case of the 
present commercial blockade. You have 
been trading fifty or sixty years with a 
region of the earth which, during the 
whole of that time, has been constantly 
increasing its production of raw fibre for 
your use. You have been increasing 
your investments of capital, training 
skilled workmen, preparing in every way 
for the manufacture of that raw material. 
The cotton was intended for you, not for 
the people by whom it was grown. You 
have been making provision for its use, 
and now all at once this great stream, 
which has been constantly enlarging for 
a period of more than half a century, is 
shut off, and you are deprived of the 
means on which you have been calculat¬ 
ing for the employment and subsistence 
of your people. Nothing but a com¬ 
mercial blockade could have produced 
such a sudden and calamitous reverse. 
It has never been expected. We have 
had, indeed, our apprehensions of dan- 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 








1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


ger, from the fact of our deriving our 
cotton from one particular country ; we 
have speculated as to the possibility of 
sterility falling upon a territory so limit¬ 
ed in space; and vve have also speculated 
upon the possibility of a negro insurrec¬ 
tion, that might destroy that social sys¬ 
tem upon which we have always regretted 
that this vast industry is based ; but, if 
you reflect for a moment, you will find 
that, in the nature of things, neither of 
those events would have been likely to 
happen, if left to the operation of natural 
laws, with the suddenness of the cala¬ 
mity which has now befallen us. The 
slaves might have become free men; 
but, generally speaking, when slaves 
are emancipated, as in the case of the 
West India Islands, if no foreign element 
is introduced, the transition from slavery 
to a state of freedom is accomplished 
with comparatively little concussion or 
violence ; and it is not likely that from 
such an event so great and sudden a pri¬ 
vation of the raw material of our industry 
would have arisen. We might have had 
some perturbation for a few years, lessen¬ 
ing production and diminishing your 
supplies to some extent—a deficiency 
which would probably have been made 
up by the rest of the world, which would 
have been looking on at an event that 
might have been calculated to impair the 
powers of that region in the production 
of cotton. Now, on the contrary, with 
the 4,000,000 bales of cotton which may 
exist in the Southern States at Christ¬ 
mas, and with the prevailing uncertainty 
as to the result of the war, no remedial 
measure can be applied, inasmuch as 
people feel a natural disinclination to 
invest their capital in the production of 
that article, when the market is threat¬ 
ened with so great a disturbing cause as 
the sudden release of a vast quantity of 
cotton in America. Again, as I have 
said, we might have had to fear sterility 
in the Southern States of America. We 
have had blights that have struck par¬ 
ticular vegetables. We have had the 
potato blight, the vine disease, and the 
mulberry disease, and we have had these 
visitations of Providence in the form of 


453 

epidemics—vegetable choleras, as they 
might be called. It is possible that there 
might have been some such accidental 
cause to diminish, for a few years, the 
production of cotton in America, although 
hitherto cotton has been singularly ex¬ 
empted from these vicissitudes of nature ; 
but all that might have been guarded 
against, just as you find you can get silk 
in China to supplement a failure in 
France or Italy. Here, on the contrary, 
is a case which cannot be dealt with ; it 
is unmanageable; it is so grave, so alarm¬ 
ing, and presents itself to those who 
speculate upon what may be the state 
of things six months hence in such a 
hideous aspect, that it is apt to beget 
thoughts of some violent remedy. It 
is desirable in that frame of mind that 
we should bear in recollection the facts I 
have mentioned—viz. that the system of 
warfare from which we are now suffering 
so severely is one that we are the chief 
means of maintaining, in opposition, I 
believe, to the opinion of the whole 
mercantile, and indeed civilised world. 

With these preliminary remarks, I 
shall read one short extract from the 
despatch which, as I have told you, was 
written on the breaking out of the Italian 
war by Mr. Cass, then Foreign Minister to 
the United States Government, and sent 
to the representatives of the American 
Government in Europe. An attempt 
was made in the House of Commons to 
induce the Government to print and lay 
that despatch on the table, but the 
request was refused, on, I think, very 
insufficient grounds. We have had pre¬ 
sented to us lately a large volume of 
American despatches, which have passed 
between the Government of Washington 
and their representatives in all parts of 
the world, about most of which we have 
not much concern, and some of which 
have been rather maliciously printed, 
because in one case—the case of the 
Minister at St. Petersburg—the despatch 
is not creditable to the writer; but the 
despatch which I hold in my hand, 
which does refer to an important ques¬ 
tion deeply affecting our interests, the 
Government have refused to publish. I 







454 


OCT. 25 , 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


have obtained a copy from Washington, 
where it may be had for a very small 
sum, and I find that it enters into the 
subject of international maritime law 
generally. Apprehending that the war 
in Italy might extend to other Powers, 
the American Government, by the hand 
of Mr. Cass, lay down their views in 
the following language :— 

' The blockade of an enemy’s coast, in 
order to prevent all intercourse with neu¬ 
trals, even for the most peaceful purpose, 
is a claim which gains no additional strength 
by an investigation into the foundation on 
which it rests, and the evils which have 
accompanied its exercise call for an efficient 
remedy. The investment of a place by sea 
and land, with a view to its reduction, pre¬ 
venting it from receiving supplies of men 
and material necessary for its defence, is a 
legitimate mode of prosecuting hostilities, 
which cannot be objected to so long as 
war is recognised as an arbiter of national 
disputes. But the blockade of a coast, or 
of commercial positions along it, without 
any regard to ulterior military operations, 
and with the real design of carrying on a 
war against trade, and from its very nature 
against the trade of peaceful and friendly 
Powers, instead of a war against armed 
men, is a proceeding which it is difficult 
to reconcile with reason or the opinions of 
modem times. To watch every creek, and 
river, and harbour upon an ocean frontier, 
in order to seize and confiscate every vessel 
with its cargo attempting to enter or go 
out without any direct effect upon the true 
objects of war, is a mode of conducting 
hostilities which would find few advocates, 
if now first presented for consideration.' 

That despatch, dated June 27, 1859, 
was brought under the notice of the 
House of Commons on the 18th of 
February, 1861, I was not present at 
the time, being in Algiers; but questions 
were put in the House as to the 
purport of the despatch, and Lord 
Russell, who was then, as now, Foreign 
Minister, alluded to the fact of the 
American Minister in London having 
read the despatch to him. Lord Russell, 
in describing the contents of the despatch, 
which he did very accurately, also, 
unfortunately for our present position, 
took occasion to give the reasons why he 


had entirely objected to the proposals of 
Mr. Cass. He maintained that it was 
for our interest that commercial block¬ 
ades should be maintained, adding that 
he could not entertain a proposal for 
putting an end to them; and that it was 
necessary, as a great maritime Power, 
that we should preserve for ourselves the 
same belligerent right. That doctrine, 
coming from the Foreign Office within 
the last three years and a half, seems to 
me to have an important bearing, or 
ought to have an important bearing, 
upon our attitude at the present time. 
In the first place, if the system of com¬ 
mercial blockades be maintained, as our 
Government insists it should be main¬ 
tained, as a sort of strategical means of 
defending ourselves—if we are to submit 
to it because it is necessary for our 
national defence and honour—then it 
becomes a serious question whether 
the particular interests that are from 
time to time to become the victims of a 
system over which they have no control, 
against which they can make no provi¬ 
sion, and to which they can apply no 
remedy, ought not to be considered as 
fairly entitled to exemption from the 
whole burden and cost of such a plan 
of national defence, just as you would 
indemnify the outskirts of a town for the 
demolition of houses, with a view to 
defence against the power of an investing 
foe. I know no remedy which the 
parties immediately suffering can apply 
to such a state of things as this, if you 
maintain the system of commercial 
blockades. But I say, if it is necessary 
for the maintenance of the national 
honour to adhere to that system, that 
the cost ought to be borne by the nation 
at large, and not by any particular sec¬ 
tion. That will become a serious question 
if we go on, as we seem likely to do, in 
this particular district, suffering from the 
consequences of this system. But it 
affects our position in another way, 
which we can’t too carefully bear in 
mind. Some people say that we must 
recognise the South, in order to get our 
cotton. But recognising the South would 
do nothing towards obtaining the cotton. 



i86a. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


On the contrary, once recognise the 
South, and then there is no longer a 
question of any kind as to the right of 
the North to blockade its ports. The 
only question then would be whether 
the blockade was effective. But what, 
I fear, is in the hearts of those who are 
almost bewildered with the calamitous 
prospect which they think they see before 
them, is that the recognition of the 
independence of the South should be 
followed by some effort to obtain the 
cotton—in other words, that England 
and France, or other countries, should 
go there and obtain the cotton against 
the will of the party blockading the 
coast. Well, my own opinion is that, 
after the statement I have made, after 
the facts which are on record; if we, 
when we began to suffer from the appli¬ 
cation of our doctrines to our own case, 
were, in the teeth not merely of inter¬ 
national law, but of the law of which 
we are ourselves the chief promoters 
and maintainers, to resort to violence to 
procure the cotton, there is no amount 
of suffering which the American people, 
—every man and woman of them, sup¬ 
posing them to be the same as their 
fathers on this side of the water are,— 
would not endure to resist what in such 
a case would be regarded as an unmiti¬ 
gated outrage. 

But now I will deal with this question 
generally on its own merits. Is it our in¬ 
terest, the interest of the English nation, 
to maintain and perpetuate the system of 
commercial blockades ? The particular 
suggestion of Mr. Cass is this—that in 
the origin of blockades it was never in¬ 
tended to blockade a whole coast, or to 
shut out the export and import of articles 
not contraband of war. Is there, then, 
any ground for supposing that this country 
has an interest in maintaining that system 
by which those blockades are extended 
to all commercial ports? Mr. Cass argues 
that it was never intended to be so ex¬ 
tended, and he gives cogent facts and 
reasons in support of his assertion that, 
in its origin, a blockade meant the invest¬ 
ing of fortified places, and their invest¬ 
ment by sea and land at the same time. 


4 S 5 

| The American Foreign Minister does 
not object to that; he does not object 
to your investing their arsenals ; he does 
not say that Portsmouth and Plymouth 
are not to be liable to investment, but 
his argument is that the peaceful ports 
of commerce ought not to be shut up in 
time of war. And I ask again, what 
interest have we as a nation in opposing 
that principle ? Why, I think it is easy 
to show that we, of all people in the 
world, have the most interest in establish 
ing it. And bear in mind, that I am 
now arguing this matter only as it affects 
our interests. I do not come here as a 
humanitarian or philanthropist, asking 
my countrymen to give up a system which 
is advantageous to them, out of homage 
to the genius of the age, or because we 
are reaching a millennium ; but I ask it 
because, as an Englishman and as a 
public man, I have not and never have 
had any other criterion to guide me, 
nor any other standard by which to 
form my opinion, but the interests, the 
honest interests, of my country, which I 
believe, with God’s blessing, are the 
interests of all mankind. Understand 
that I don’t beg the question, but I 
challenge discussion upon its merits, and 
in the way in which I am now prepared 
to treat it. Let us ask ourselves with 
what country it can be advantageous 
for England to maintain the system of 
commercial blockades, supposing we 
were at war with that country. 

There are only three nations with 
which England could possibly have a 
maritime war of serious dimensions—viz., 
France, Russia, and the United States. 
Take Franee. Why, since the discovery 
of the locomotive and the rail, merchan¬ 
dise intended for the interior of France, 
which now under ordinary circumstances 
goes by way of Marseilles, Havre, and 
other ports, could find a way to enter 
by Rotterdam, Hamburg, and very soon 
also, as the lines of rail are completed, 
by the ports of Italy and even of Spain, 
and with little addition to its cost; cer¬ 
tainly without such an addition as would 
form an insuperable bar to the French 
people obtaining and enjoying foreign 








OCT. 25 , 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


450 

commodities. Practically, therefore, a 
blockade—as an instrument of warfare 
with France—has lost its force by the 
introduction of the locomotive and the 
rail. 

Now take Russia. There is no doubt 
that in regard to that country, from which 
we import so heavily of raw materials, 
the principle of commercial blockade 
might still be applied with considerable 
force, especially to its southern ports in 
the Black Sea. Therefore, I ask, if you 
were at war with Russia, would it be 
the interest of England to enforce the 
system of commercial blockade as a 
means of coercing that country, and put¬ 
ting an end to hostilities ? That question 
is answered by what was done during 
the Crimean war. That war was de¬ 
clared in March, 1854. France and 
England had both had deficient harvests, 
and in France, especially, there was a 
dearth of food. What was the course 
then pursued by those countries ? Did they 
instantly avail themselves of the power 
of blockading the southern ports of 
Russia? No ; though the war was de¬ 
clared in March, 1854, it was not until 
March, 1855, that the blockade of the 
commercial ports of the Black Sea and 
the Sea of Azoff was declared. We 
purposely left those ports open for a 
twelvemonth, in order that England and 
France might get grain from them ; and 
England obtained more than half a million 
quarters of corn from them to feed our 
people, while we were at the same time 
carrying on the destructive operations of 
the siege of Sebastopol. That is a 
practical instance in our own day, in 
which we applied the principle advocated 
by Mr. Cass, viz., that of besieging a 
military arsenal, and carrying on simul¬ 
taneously a peaceful intercourse with the 
enemy’s commercial ports. But how was 
it in the northern ports of Russia ? Bear 
in mind that of all the exports from 
Russia, consisting chiefly of raw mate¬ 
rials—hemp, flax, linseed, tallow, and 
grain, England takes far more than one 
half—in the case of some articles she 
takes even as much as 70 and 80 per cent. 
Well, if we were at war with Russia, 


should we enforce a blockade upon her 
northern ports? Again, we have an 
illustration of that in the last war. 
We professed, it is true, to blockade 
Cronstadt to prevent the export of raw 
materials, such as flax and hemp, by sea 
to England. By that means we merely 
diverted that traffic through Prussia; 
and in one year, 1855, we brought from 
Prussia tallow to the amount of upwards 
of 1,500,0c»/. sterling, while in previous 
years the amount had not been 2,000/. 
Well, but the Government knew that 
those articles were coining from the ports 
of Prussia in the Baltic, and we had a 
debate on the subject raised in the House 
of Commons, where a motion was made 
in regard to this contraband trade, as it 
was called, in Russian produce. I sup¬ 
pose that some merchants, anticipating 
that blockade, had entered into large 
speculations in Manilla hemp and Indian 
seeds, and they perhaps thought that 
they would be cheated of their gains, if 
Russian commodities were allowed to 
come into this country in that indirect 
way. The consequence was, that a 
vigorous appeal was made to the House, 
and by deputations to the Government, 
with a view to stop that contraband 
trade. The Government were chal¬ 
lenged, and were in effect told— 1 If you 
will not put down the trade thus carried 
on under your noses—if you do not 
enforce some test of origin—you had 
better abolish the system of blockade 
altogether, because you are only tempt¬ 
ing to their ruin those merchants who 
have gone to Manilla for hemp.’ It was 
about to go very hard with this Prussian 
trade, when there appeared another party 
in the field. The Dundee Chamber of 
Commerce, taking the alarm, met and 
sent a memorial to the Government, 
stating that they viewed with apprehen¬ 
sion this attempt to keep out Russian 
hemp—that the district of Forfar, around 
Dundee, could not exist without that raw 
material, and earnestly begging the Go¬ 
vernment, therefore, to offer no impedi¬ 
ment to its importation. All this while 
we were at war with Russia, and paying 
for an enormous fleet to blockade her 



1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


457 


ports. The result was that nothing was 
done, and, as I understand, one or two 
of the houses connected with the Manilla 
hemp trade were ruined in consequence. 

Turn now to the third case. Suppose 
we were at war with America. Does 
anybody believe that, if we had been at 
war with her last year, we should have 
gone and blockaded the Southern ports, 
and prevented cotton from coming into 
Lancashire? [Cheers and laughter.] 
Well, but that is the theory upon which 
Lord Russell acts. And my case is this 
—that, assuming a theory which we are 
very careful not to carry out ourselves, 
we give to the rest of the world the 
opportunity of carrying it out practically 
and very severely against us. Nobody 
supposes that if we were at war with the 
United States, we should blockade their 
ports. I will tell you what we should 
do. We should have a blockading 
squadron there, and prize-money would 
flow in great abundance; but you would 
never attempt hermetically to seal up 
that territory. The cotton would come 
out, the rate of insurance would rise, and 
thus you would get your raw material, but 
at an increased price. In 1812 and 1813 
we were at war with the United States. 
We then imported a considerable amount 
of cotton from the Southern States, al¬ 
though it did not, I believe, amount to 
one-tenth of the present quantity. But at 
that time the very same incidents occurred 
in the House of Commons which I have 
narrated in connection with the more 
recent case of the Russian war. There 
was a party in the City of London inter¬ 
ested in Brazilian and Indian cotton, 
just as in 1855 there might have been 
gentlemen in Bristol interested in Manilla 
and Indian hemp, and these speculators 
prompted their Members to move in the 
House for the absolute exclusion of 
American cotton. Motions were made 
to that effect, and Lord Castlereagh, 
then the leader of the House of Com¬ 
mons, was much embarrassed on the 
question : indeed, I am not sure whether 
he was not once placed in a minority 
upon it. These speculators pressed the 
Government, saying, ‘You know that 


this cotton is coming, and yet you take 
no steps to prevent it; you capture a few 
cargoes, your seamen get their prize- 
money, but still this American produce 
enters England.’ But, again, there came 
another party into the field. There were 
petitions from Manchester, Glasgow, 
Stockport, and the neighbouring towns, 
praying the Government to do nothing 
to exclude American cotton ; and the 
consequence was that nothing was done. 
American cotton, at a time when the 
quantity we imported was so small, and 
when our dependence upon it was so 
much less than it is now, was allowed 
to come in, and the blockade was prac¬ 
tically inoperative. Recollect that half, 
at least, of all the exports from America 
come in ordinary times to this country. 
But our imports from America do not 
consist solely of cotton. It would be 
bad enough to keep out the cotton, to 
stop your spindles, and throw your work¬ 
people out ofemployment. But that is not 
all. You get an article even more import¬ 
ant than your cotton from America—your 
food. In the last session of Parliament, an 
hon. Member, himself an extensive miller 
and corn-dealer, moved for a return of the 
quantity of grain and flour for human 
food imported into this country from 
September of last year to June in the 
present year. His object was to show 
what would have been the effect on the 
supplies of food brought to this kingdom 
if the apprehension of war, in relation to 
the Trent affair, had unhappily been 
realised. Well, his estimate was, that 
the food imported from America between 
September of last year and June of this 
year was equal to the sustenance of 
between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 of 
people for a whole twelvemonth, and 
his remark to me was—I quote his own 
words—that if that food had not been 
brought from America, all the money 
in Lombard-street could not have pur¬ 
chased it elsewhere, because elsewhere 
it did not exist. Well, I would ask 
whether, in the case of a war with 
America, anybody would seriously con¬ 
template our enforcing a blockade in 
order to keep out those commodities ? 



458 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 25 , 


Nobody dreams that we should. And 
yet we are maintaining a system which 
hands over to other States, whenever 
they choose to go to war, the power of 
starving our people, or depriving them 
of the raw material of their industry, 
merely because our antiquated statesmen, 
who live and dream in the period of 200 
or 300 years ago, don’t understand the 
wants and circumstances of the present 
age. 

I hold in my hand two pamphlets, 
both attributed, and, I believe, truly, to 
the pen of functionaries employed in the 
Board of Trade. They both take the 
largest and most common-sense and 
liberal views of this question, thereby 
adding another proof to that afforded in 
the case of the Corn-laws, that there 
has always existed in the atmosphere of 
that department something conducive 
to the most enlightened and advanced 
appreciation of our commercial policy. 
From one of those pamphlets I will 
read an extract, in which are mentioned 
the very names of some of the old 
authorities on international law, which 
Lord Russell has been quoting in his 
despatches to America within the last 
few months. The writer says 

‘The days of Vattel, Grotius, Puffendorf, 
and Bynkershoek, are not our days ; their 
doctrines, however applicable to those 
times, are unfit for these. They may 
have been suited for an era of war ; they 
are unsuited to an epoch of peace. They 
advanced doctrines which in their day it 
was perhaps possible to maintain in some 
degree ; but the condition on which their 
views were framed are changed, and it 
would now be as easy to revive the dead 
creed of Protection as to rule the relations 
between neutrals and belligerents by the 
antiquated laws of OWrcn, the Costumbres 
Maritimas of Barcelona, or the once 
famed Consulate del Mare. It would be 
as easy to revert in medicine to the doctrines 
of Galen, and to accept the crude dogmas 
of Theophilus as the base of modern arts, 
as to define and govern our international 
relations by authorities whose dicta have 
ceased to be in harmony with the feelings 
of the present time.’ 

Yet, Gentlemen, it is upon these 


dogmas that you will continue to be 
governed, unless you bring some of 
your practical sense to bear upon the 
antiquated prepossessions of those who 
are at the head of affairs. It was so 
before. We had to fight the battle for 
Free Trade, in time of peace, with our 
own governing class ; and you will have 
to fight the battle again for Free Trade, 
in time of war, with the same class, as 
the only way of obtaining such a change 
in maritime law as will put it in harmony 
with the spirit and the exigencies of our 
age. Still, we come back to this vague 
response, ‘ Oh ! but if you injure your¬ 
selves by the system of commercial 
blockade, you may injure your enemy a 
great deal more.’ I want to know, in 
the wide range of the world, what con¬ 
ceivable injury you can do to any people 
that will equal the mischief which must 
be inflicted upon this region of Lancashire 
if the present state of things continues 
for another six months. For, recollect, 
that if you blockade the commercial 
ports of a foreign Power, like America 
or Russia, you merely prevent them 
from receiving comparative luxuries into 
their ports—your manufactured goods, 
colonial produce, and the like. People 
can live tolerably well, as they have 
lived, without these things. But if you 
inflict a commercial blockade that stops 
the exports from, as well as the imports 
into, those countries, while you are only 
depriving your enemy of comparative 
luxuries, you are depriving yourselves 
both of the raw material of the industry 
by which your people live, and also of 
the very food necessary for their sub¬ 
sistence. I have thought much upon 
this subject, and I can conceive of no 
case in which, while carrying on war 
with other Powers, you could inflict 
upon them the same amount of injury 
as you would inflict upon yourselves by 
an effective system of blockade; and if 
the blockade is not to be effective, the 
whole thing falls to the ground as a 
mere mischievous delusion. But make 
it effective, and I repeat, there is no 
great country with which you could be 
at war, without inflicting fourfold the 








1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


459 


injury upon yourselves that you could 
inflict upon your enemy. Is that a 
right way to strengthen a belligerent 
Power—to impair its revenue by curtail¬ 
ing its commerce, to deprive its people 
of the raw material of their industry, 
and at the same time to starve them by 
shutting out their food, thus reducing 
their physical condition, at the very 
moment when you want their robust 
arms and muscular vigour to fight their 
country’s battles ? I say, on the con¬ 
trary, that it is in times of war, above 
all others, that you ought to have the 
freest access to the ports of those 
foreign countries on which you are de¬ 
pendent for your raw materials and 
your food. I can understand a great 
manufacturing country like this main¬ 
taining a large fleet for the purpose of 
keeping its doors open for the supply of 
that food and those raw materials ; but 
by what perversity of reasoning can any 
statesman be brought to think that it 
can ever be our interest to employ our 
fleet to prevent those indispensable 
commodities from reaching our shores ? 

There is another point which I do 
not remember ever seeing discussed, but 
which is one of very great importance. 
We should seek to establish it as a 
principle in the intercourse of nations, 
that they should not resort to the pro¬ 
hibition of exports as a belligerent act. 
When I was engaged in arranging the 
Treaty of Commerce with France, we 
put in a clause which in its effect inter¬ 
dicted the right of prohibiting the ex¬ 
portation of coal. Now, according to 
my idea, if our diplomacy is to be 
carried out in the common-sense interest 
of these vast communities, we should 
seek by every means in our power, in 
the case of war, to prevent belligerent 
States from stopping the export of articles 
necessary for the sustenance or the em¬ 
ployment of mankind. With the general 
spread of Free-trade principles — by 
which I mean nothing but the principle 
of the division of labour carried over 
the whole world—one part of the earth 
must become more and more dependent 
upon another for the supply of its 


material and its food. Instead of, as 
formerly, one county sending its produce 
to another county, or one nation send¬ 
ing its raw material to another nation, 
we shall be in the way of having whole 
continents engaged in raising the raw 
material required for the manufacturing 
communities of another hemisphere. It 
is our interest to prevent, as far as 
possible, the sudden interruption of such 
a state of dependence ; and, therefore, 
I would suggest it as a most desirable 
thing to be done in all cases by our 
Government, as the ruling and guiding 
principle of their policy, that they 
should seek in their negotiations of 
treaties to bind the parties respectively, 
not, as a belligerent act, to prevent the 
exportation of anything, unless we ex¬ 
cept certain munitions of war, or arma¬ 
ments. I don’t think the Government 
should interfere to prevent the merchant 
from exporting any article, even if it 
can be made available for warlike pur¬ 
poses. The Government has nothing 
to do with mercantile operations ; it 
ought not to undertake the surveillance 
of commerce at all. Of course it should 
not allow an enemy to come here and 
fit out ships or armaments to be used in 
fighting against us. But I mean, that 
for all articles of legitimate commerce, 
there ought to be, as far as possible, 
freedom in time of war. To what I am 
urging it may be said, ‘ But you won’t 
get people to observe these international 
obligations, even if they are entered 
into.’ That remark was made in the 
House of Commons by a Minister, who, 
I think, ought not to have uttered such 
a prediction. Why are any international 
obligations undertaken unless they are 
to be observed ? We have this guaran tee, 
that the international rules I am now 
advocating will be respected; that they 
are not contemplated to be merely an 
article in a Treaty between any two 
Powers, but to be fundamental laws 
regulating the intercourse of nations, 
and having the assent of the majority 
of, if not all, the maritime Powers in the 
world. Let us suppose two countries 
to be at war, and that one of them has 





460 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 25 , 


entered into an engagement not to stop 
the exportation of grain. Well, we 
will assume the temptation to be so 
great, that, thinking it can starve its 
opponent, it would wish to stop this 
exportation in spite of the Treaty. Why, 
that would bring down on them instantly 
the animosity, indeed the hostility, of 
all the other Powers who were parties 
to the system. The nation which has 
been a party to a general system of 
international law, becomes an outlaw to 
all nations, if it breaks its engagement 
towards any one. And in the case on 
which I am laying great stress—viz. 
that of commercial blockade, and the 
prevention of any stoppage of exports 
in time of war—I don’t rely on the 
honour of the individual nation making 
it for observing the law ; I rely on its 
being her interest to keep it, because if 
she were at war with us, and were to 
break the law, she would not break it 
as against us alone, but as against the 
whole world. 

I won’t attempt to cover the whole 
ground over which this question would 
lead me—I mean the question of the 
reform of international law, with the 
view of bringing it into harmony with 
the present state of things. But this I 
would say, as a guiding rule of our policy, 
that as we have adopted Free Trade as 
our principle in time of peace, so ought 
we to make trade as free as possible also 
in time of war. Let that be your object; 
and whenever you find a restriction upon 
legitimate commerce, whether in war or 
in peace, be assured that its removal will 
do more good to England than it can do 
to any other country on the globe ; and 
for this simple reason — that we have 
double the commerce of any other 
country. Then let this manufacturing 
district, as it has done before, make its 
voice heard in order that the enlightened 
principles which are now finally tri¬ 
umphant in time of peace shall also be 
applied, as far as they possibly can be, 
in time of war. I have said—and, after 
all, this is the practical question—that I 
don't see how the agitation of this matter 
can be of any service at this moment 


in securing a supply of cotton from 
America, by getting rid of the unfor¬ 
tunate state of things which now exists 
there. But this I will add, that if there 
were at the head of the Federal Govern¬ 
ment men of the grasp of mind of a 
Franklin, a Jefferson, an Adams, or a 
Washington, I can imagine that they 
would seek to acquire for their country 
the glory and the lasting fame of in¬ 
augurating, even at the present moment, 
their own principles—for they are their 
own principles—of the exemption from 
blockade of the peaceful ports of a whole 
continental coast. That would reflect 
great credit on the men engaged in it, 
while it would also place on a high moral 
elevation the nation which achieved it. 
I can imagine that men of the calibre of 
those I have named, in the circumstances 
in which they stand, seeing, and being 
anxious to prevent, the immense and 
unmerited evil inflicted not only on the 
capitalists, but on the labourers not 
merely of England but throughout the 
civilised world, and seeing, likewise, 
national safety in such a course, should 
desire, if practicable—and on its practi¬ 
cability I offer no opinion—to put an 
end to this state of things in the interests 
of humanity. But in making that sug¬ 
gestive and hypothetical remark, which 
I do without wishing for a moment to 
imply blame or reproach, this I will say, 
that the only way in which Europe can 
approach that question with the United 
States is on the ground of principle 
which I have laid down, and not by 
violating the blockade with the view of 
obtaining their cotton because we now 
want it, while still retaining that fanciful 
advantage of applying the principle of 
blockade to other Powers at some future 
time. The only possible ground on 
which Europe can expect from the 
American Government a disposition to 
endeavour to remove this great evil, is 
by the European Powers engaging for 
the future to adopt the American prin¬ 
ciple of exempting all commercial parts 
from blockade, and confining blockades 
merely to arsenals and fortified places. 

I know something of the disposition of 






1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VII. 


foreign Governments m both hemi- [ 
spheres, and I tell you again that Eng¬ 
land has been the great obstacle to such 
a benignant change of policy as I have 
indicated. We are, perhaps, not to be 
blamed for this; we have but followed 
in one direction, as America has followed 
in another, the instincts of national self- 
interest. For nearly a century, England 
has believed that she has had an interest 
in maintaining to the utmost degree the 
rights of belligerents, just as America 
has believed, and rightly so, that she 
had an interest in maintaining the rights 
of neutrals. But the circumstances are 
now changed. We profess the principle 
of non-intervention. We no longer in¬ 
tend, I hope, to fight the battles of every 
one on the Continent, and to make war 
like a game of ninepins, setting up and 
knocking down dynasties, as chance or 
passion may dictate. We avow the 
principle of non-intervention, which 
means neutrality, and we have, therefore, 
made ourselves the great neutral Power 
of the world. Two great wars have 
been carried on within the last ten years. 
One was the war in Italy between France 
and Austria, and die other is the still 
more gigantic war in America. During 
both, England has remained neutral. 
Our business, therefore, is to shape our 
policy according to the light of modem 
events, and I am convinced, that if we 
look at themattercalmlyand impartially, 
we shall find that our interests are the 
same as those of the weakest Power in 


461 

Christendom, seeing that in adopting 
Free Trade we have renounced the 
principle of force and coercion. 

Allow me to say, in conclusion, that 
this question is one that ought to engage 
the serious attention of gentlemen in 
this district. Where are the young men 
who have come into active life since the 
time when their fathers entered upon the 
great struggle for Free Trade? What 
are their thoughts upon this subject ? 
They have inherited an enviable state of 
prosperity from their fathers. For fifteen 
years there has hardly been a serious 
check to business—scarcely a necessity 
for an anxious day or night on the part 
of the great body of our manufacturing 
and trading population. But let not the 
young men of this district think that the 
possession of such advantages can be 
enjoyed without exertion, watchfulness, 
and a due sense of patriotic duty. We 
must not stand still, or imagine that we 
can remain stereotyped, like the Chinese; 
for, if we ever cease to progress, be 
assured we shall commence to decline. 
I would, therefore, exhort the young 
men, with their great responsibilities and 
great resources, to take this matter seri¬ 
ously to heart. Something is due, not 
only to themselves and to those who 
have gone before them, but likewise to 
the working population around them, 
who will expect an effort to be made, if 
not to put an end to the present state of 
things, at least to prevent the recurrence 
of such calamities in future. 




FOREIGN POLICY. 

VIII. 


ROCHDALE, OCTOBER 29, 1862. 


[At a public meeting in Rochdale, Mr. Cobden was asked to move the following resolu¬ 
tion in favour of Parliamentary and Financial Reform ' That this meeting views with 
dismay the enormous public expenditure of the country, which unnecessarily increases 
the burdens of the people, is subversive of their best interests, and perilous to Consti¬ 
tutional Government. This meeting is also of opinion that a comprehensive measure 
of Parliamentary Reform, which would secure a more faithful representation of the 
people, is absolutely essential; and remembering the pledges with regard to Financial 
and Parliamentary Reform, given by the present Ministry prior to their accession to 
power, calls upon them to carry out those pledges, or retire from office.' But before 
he referred to the resolution, he called attention to the relations between Great Britain 
and the United States.] 


Before I address myself to the gen¬ 
eral subject involved in the resolution 
which is now before you, I will, with 
your permission, say a few words upon 
that subject which is most near to my 
feelings, as it must be to every one con¬ 
nected with this borough,—I allude to 
the present state of distress in this district. 
I should like, if I could, to state some¬ 
thing that might contribute towards 
making the cause of your sufferings better 
understood, and which might clear up 
any impressions that may exist with re¬ 
gard to the position or the attitude of this 
district amongst our fellow-countrymen 
in other parts of the kingdom. I should 
like to say a word or two with reference, 
not only to our own interest in this dis¬ 
aster, but also upon the responsibility 
and duty arising out of it, which, I think, 
fall upon all parts of the kingdom. 

You are suffering much in the same 
manner as you would be if England were 
engaged in a foreign war, and this coun¬ 


try were placed in a state of blockade to 
prevent the ingress of cotton for your 
mills. That would be a state of things 
which would be regarded by the whole 
kingdom as an affair which concerned 
the whole community. All England, the 
United Kingdom, would come to your 
rescue; any necessary amount of expend¬ 
iture would be incurred in order to rescue 
you from the danger that assailed you, 
and to compensate you, indemnify you 
for the injuries you might have sustained. 
Well, there is very little difference in 
principle between such a case and that 
in which you are now really involved. 
You are suffering, not from a blockade 
of Lancashire, you are suffering from a 
blockade of the Southern ports of the 
United States; both arise out of a state 
of war; both arise out of a principle 
recognised in the conduct of war; and 
as our Government and this country are 
assenting parties to such a principle of 
warfare, and as it is an evil arising out 






OCT. 29, 1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


of the war which you cannot provide 
against, which you cannot remove, and 
for which you are not responsible,—I 
say it must involve the same conse¬ 
quences, that your sufferings must be 
shared, and your case relieved by the 
efforts of the whole of this community 
—I mean the whole of the United 
Kingdom. This principle has been to 
some extent recognised by the course 
which has been pursued to a certain 
extent in other parts of the kingdom. 
There have been efforts made, and a 
considerable amount of sympathy mani¬ 
fested, to relieve the distress of this dis¬ 
trict. I do not measure the amount of 
assistance to be rendered to you by what 
has been done: I only say the principle 
is recognised, and efforts made in all 
parts of the kingdom to support and 
cheer you in your sufferings and distress. 
If I could only say one word which 
would tend to remove that misapprehen¬ 
sion which parties might have in other 
and distant parts of the country, in their 
efforts of humanity, in looking at your 
case, I should think my time very well 
employed on the present occasion. 
There is no doubt there is much appre¬ 
hension, particularly in the southern 
portions of the kingdom, with regard to 
the state of matters here. I am not sur¬ 
prised at this, because I, who was born 
in the south, and was an emigrant in 
this region, and again returned to the 
south, perhaps maybe better acquainted 
than many of you with the ignorance 
that prevails in the south of England, 
and even in London, with reference to 
the state of society in this district. 

Now, an attempt has been made to 
throw blame upon large numbers of 
parties who are visited by the great 
calamity in which you are involved. I 
would not say one word in defence of the 
capitalists of Lancashire, because they 
are very well able to defend themselves, 
were it not that this misapprehension 
with regard to their conduct had a tend¬ 
ency to check the sympathy and slacken 
the charity of our fellow-countrymen 
elsewhere. I am not going to undertake 
the defence of this class ; but an untrue 


463 

accusation has been made against that 
class. Men of all classes have their good 
and bad individuals ; fortunately for the 
world, the good predominate everywhere. 
But, with reference to the particular fact 
with which I wish to deal, I may say 
there seems to be a general forgetfulness, 
on the part of those bringing these ac¬ 
cusations against the capitalists, that the 
calamity has fallen both upon the capi¬ 
talists and the working classes, and if it 
continues long enough, that it will ruin 
them both. I will illustrate what I have 
to say by taking the position of a mill- 
owner spinning cotton, and this compar¬ 
ison will be best understood by our fellow- 
countrymen in the south of England. A 
millowner who spins cotton is somewhat 
similar to a flour miller who grinds 
wheat. 

Now, let us suppose a calamity occurred, 
by which all the wheat millers of the 
south of England were deprived of the 
raw material for their mills—that is, 
wheat—that the mills everywhere had to 
be shut up ; but suppose, in addition, tha* 
these mills were liable to be rated for the 
relief of the poor, and that the cottages 
generally owned by the millers, where 
the workpeople lived, were to pay rent, 
and were to contribute to the poor-rates. 
Suppose, simultaneously with such a 
calamity as that, we had received a cry 
from this part of the country that these 
corn millers, whose trade was paralysed, 
ought, in addition, to keep the work¬ 
people who had been thrown out of work. 
That would be about as reasonable as 
much that I have read of the accusations 
brought against owners of mills in this 
region. I came last week from Scotland 
by way of Carlisle, Kendal, Lancaster, 
Preston, Bolton, to Manchester, and I 
came through a country where there was 
a succession—I may say a forest—of 
smokeless chimneys. Why, for all pur¬ 
poses of productive value, the machinery 
in these mills might just as well have 
been in the primitive form of iron, in 
which they were before they were ex¬ 
tracted from the mines. They were 
utterly valueless as property. And we 
i must bear in mind that, though some 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 2 q, 


464 

millowners are rich in floating capital as 
well as in fixed capital, yet a great bulk 
of those who own cotton mills in this 
county are not rich in floating capital. 
They are rich in bricks, mortar, and 
machinery, when they can get cotton to 
make their looms productive. 

Now, take your own borough, and 
what is its position at the present mo¬ 
ment ? I have got some authentic facts 
since I have come into Rochdale—facts 
applicable to the Rochdale relief district. 
That district contains ninety-five cotton 
mills employing 14,071 persons ; of these 
there are out of work 10,793, and the 
remaining 3,278 are not averaging more 
than two days a week of work. The 
relief committee are assisting weekly 
10,041, who receive no aid from rates; the 
guardians are relieving weekly 10,000, 
making a total of 20,041. The number 
of the destitute is daily increasing. Bear 
in mind, I am not speaking to you here, 
so much as I am speaking to my fellow- 
countrymen elsewhere, who are less ac¬ 
quainted than I could wish them to be 
with the actual state of this district; and 
in speaking thus I am speaking in the 
interests of you, the working men here 
present, and your families. Now, bear in 
mind that for all this destitution the 
whole of the manufacturing capital in 
this region is liable to be rated. It is not 
generally known elsewhere that, if the 
millowner closes his mill, provided that 
mill be full of machinery, it is still liable 
to be rated for the relief of the poor. 
The consequence is that the millowner 
first loses the whole amount of the in¬ 
terest in his capital, and the deprecia¬ 
tion of the capital in suspense. Say his 
mill is worth 20,000/. and that is a 
moderate estimate for the average of 
mills—that is closed, and he immediately 
loses at the rate of 2,000/. a year, by the 
loss of interest and depreciation. But, 
generally, the mill also has a number of 
cottages attached to it, in which the work¬ 
people live. These cottages must cease 
to pay rent when the workpeople cease 
to receive wages, but the cottages also 
continue to be rated to the poor. Take, 
then, the amount which the millowner, 


with that small mill worth 20,000/.,— 
at least the average mill of 20,000/. ; 
take the loss which he is suffering by the 
loss of interest and depreciation; take 
also the amount which he is liable to pay 
for his poor-rate, which may be 5,000/. 01 
6,000/. a year; and that millowner, with¬ 
out going to a central committee in Man¬ 
chester to put down his name for 100/. 
or 500/., is inevitably, by the very nature 
of his position, incurring a greater loss 
by this distress than by any amount con¬ 
tributed by the richest nobleman of this 
land towards the fund. 

It has been said that the millowners 
and capitalists have not gone to some 
central meeting, and put down their 
names for 1,000/., along with some of 
the bankers and merchants or great 
landowners who have none of these 
risks and charges attending their pro¬ 
perty which I have described. But 
these millowners and manufacturers 
are generally scattered and dispersed 
throughout the country; they have their 
obligations at their own doors, and they 
have the apprehension of a very long 
continuance of this distress which is 
upon them. I have heard some saga¬ 
cious men say, since I have been in 
Manchester,—I hope they have taken a 
too gloomy view of the situation,—but 
I have heard some of the longest-headed 
men with whom I have talked since I 
have last visited Manchester, say, that 
they don’t believe there will be any more 
prosperity for the cotton trade for five 
years to come. I repeat, that I hope 
they take a too gloomy view of the case; 
but recollect that, as all is uncertain in 
the future, and as this fixed property, 
which constitutes the great wealth of 
your manufacturers and spinners—this 
great fixed property in mills and ma¬ 
chinery-remains there, always to be 
rated to the poor, and must be rated to 
the end, as long as the owner has one 
shilling of floating capital to pay towards 
the rates, why, the manufacturer and 
spinner may well pause and say, ‘ We 
welcome you, noble lords and gentlemen 
from a distance, who throw in your mite 
in the relief of this great calamity; but, 




iS6a. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


do what you will, and be as bountiful as 
you please to be ’—(and I am sure they 
will be; the country will never fail you) 
— ‘yet still the loss and the suffering 
and distress to this land must be greater 
to the millowners and manufacturers 
than to any other class.’ I know that 
I am speaking, here, in the presence of 
a great majority of working men; and 
they will not deny the truth of what I 
say. You have had your own co-oper¬ 
ative mills here, and there is intelligence 
sufficient amongst the operatives of this 
town to know that in every word I have 
said I have been speaking the simple 
truth. But I will not confine myself to 
the capitalist class. See what the oper¬ 
ative is sure to suffer, and the working 
man is sure to suffer, by this calamity. 
Take, as an illustration, what is happen¬ 
ing at this moment in Rochdale. Again 
I take the Rochdale relief district, and, 
from the best information I can get— 
and I have no doubt it is accurate—I 
find that the weekly loss by wages, in 
this district alone, cannot be less than 
6,000/. or 6,500/. a week. So that the 
working class of Rochdale alone, at this 
moment—and you are only at the begin¬ 
ning of your distress—are losing from 
their income at the rate of upwards of 
300,000/. a year. I have seen it stated 
that the relief afforded is about 600/. a 
week. My esteemed friend behind me, 
Mr. A. H. Heywood, the treasurer of 
the relief fund, tells me that the contri¬ 
bution which has been made from that 
fund to the distressed poor of this district 
is about 600/. a week; and, I am told, 
that the board of guardians are distri¬ 
buting at the same time 800/. a week of 
relief to the poor—I won’t call them 
paupers, because we won’t allow them 
to be called that name;—they are the 
distressed, or they are the blockaded. 

Well, now, 600/. a week doled out by 
the relief committee, and 800/. given by 
the board of guardians, make the total 
relief to be 1,400/. a week. Already it 
is estimated that the working classes of 
this district have lost 6,500/. a week in 
wages, and they are getting relief at the 
rate of 1,400/. a week, so that the working 


465 

classes of this town are receiving from 
both those sources—the volunteer relief 
committee and the board of guardians 
—only about one-fourth of the income 
which they can earn by the honest 
industry of their hands in ordinary times. 
Great praise has been given to the work¬ 
ing class of this district for the fine, the 
magnanimous, the heroic fortitude which 
they have displayed on this occasion. 
Well, I sometimes think that there is 
something rather invidious in the way in 
which this compliment is paid to you by 
some parties. It seems as if they had 
always been assuming that you are a set 
of savages, without reason or a sense of 
justice, and that, whatever befell you, 
your first impulse was to go and destroy 
something or somebody in revenge. 
They must have a very curious idea of 
the people of this district. It reminds me 
of an anecdote that I remember:—When 
the late Dr. Dalton, the eminent philo¬ 
sopher, was presented to King William 
IV., his Majesty received him with this 
remark : ‘ Well, doctor—well, doctor— 
are you all quiet at Manchester now ? ’— 
the idea in his Majesty’s head being that 
in Manchesterand the neighbourhood the 
normal state was one of insurrection or 
violence. Well, but at least the conduct 
of this district, of its working population, 
will stand out all the more honourably 
before the country when it is known 
under what circumstances you have 
borne yourselves so manfully as you 
have. Where is there another class of 
the community,—I join my right hon. 
Friend Mr. Gladstone heartily in saying 
that—I am a south countryman, and 
therefore I shall not share in any praise 
I give you in this district,—but I don’t 
believe there is any other part of the 
country where the same number of men 
would have borne so courageously and 
manfully the same amount of privation. 
But still, don’t let us make it mere empty 
compliment—because the people of this 
country do not care a button for compli¬ 
ments. There is something wanted, and 
I have no doubt that something more 
will be had. This is a gigantic evil which 
has fallen upon this district from no fault 

30 



OCT. 2c), 


SPEECHES OE RICHARD COBDEN 


4.66 

of its own, which could not have been 
foreseen or provided against; and, there¬ 
fore, the consequences of this great 
calamity must be borne by the whole 
country. If they can be borne by volun¬ 
tary aid from all parts of the kingdom, 
well; if not, they must be helped by 
Imperial aid in another form. 

But I think, if it is known and fairly 
understood in all parts of the kingdom 
what the state of things is, and that a 
great effort is required, greater than any 
that has yet been made, I believe that 
the philanthropy and the generosity of 
this country will not be found wanting. 
I would suggest that a systematic plan 
should be adopted of calling county 
meetings everywhere by the lord-lieu¬ 
tenants. I have known county meetings 
called before on much slighter grounds 
of necessity than this. It is said that 
there is to be a subscription raised in all 
the churches. I have no doubt that a 
large sum will be raised in that way. 
But it requires that the country should 
know the necessities of the case, and 
that the public feeling should not be 
chilled or distorted by base appeals to 
their prejudices and their passions. Oh, 
there is a class of writers in this country, 
—God knows who they are, who support 
the vendors of such base commodities ; 
but there is a class of writers in this 
country who seem to worship success, 
and to find no pleasure so great as to 
jump upon anybody, or any class, that 
they think is down for the moment, and 
to trample it still lower in the mire. For 
myself, I have no doubt whatever that 
all classes in this country will do their 
duty. I have heard since I have been 
in Lancashire of heroic acts of benevo¬ 
lence performed not only by men, but 
by women, who have shown a bright 
example in their districts in the devotion 
they have evinced to relieve the distress 
of those immediately around them. I 
have no doubt that the amount of gener¬ 
osity and charity that is going on in 
private far transcends that which is 
known to the public, and that the best 
friends of the poor are very often the 
poor themselves. I have not the least 


doubt, I say, that this district will do its 
duty, and that when this cloud passes 
away—as I hope it may before a distant 
day—I have no doubt that there will 
be a record of bright and generous acts 
—I won’t say such as is creditable exclu¬ 
sively to this community—but such as 
will reflect honour upon our common 
humanity. 

Now, gentlemen, coupled with this 
question is another upon which I must 
say a few words. We are placed in this 
tremendous embarrassment in conse¬ 
quence of the civil war that is going on 
in America. Don’t expect me to be 
going to venture upon ground which other 
politicians have trodden, with, I think, 
doubtful success or advantage to them¬ 
selves—-don’t think that I am going 
to predict what is going to happen in 
America, or that I am going to set my¬ 
self up as a judge of the Americans. 
What I wish to do is to say a few words 
to throw light upon our relations, as a 
nation, with the American people. 1 
have no doubt whatever that, if I had 
been an American, I should have been 
true to my peace principles, and that I 
should have been amongst, perhaps, a 
very small number who had voted against, 
or raised my protest, in some shape or 
other, against this civil war in America. 
There is nothing, in the course of this 
war, that reconciles me to the brutality 
and the havoc of such a mode of settling 
human disputes. But the question we 
have to ask ourselves is this, what is the 
position which, as a nation, we ought 
to take with reference to the Americans 
in this dispute? That is the question 
which concerns us. It is no use our argu¬ 
ing as to what is the origin of the war, 
or any use whatever to advise these dis¬ 
putants. From the moment the first shot 
is fired, or the first blow is struck, in a 
dispute, then farewell to all reason and 
argument; you might as well attempt to 
reason with mad dogs as with men when 
they have begun to spill each other’s 
blood in mortal combat. I was so con¬ 
vinced of the fact during the Crimean 
war, which, you know, I opposed, I 
was so convinced of the utter uselessness 




iS62. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


of raising one’s voice in opposition to 
war when it has once begun, that I 
made up my mind that as long as I was 
in political life, should a war again break 
out between England and a great Power, 
I would never open my mouth upon the 
subject from the time the first gun was 
fired until the peace was made, because, 
when a war is once commenced, it will 
only be by the exhaustion of one party 
that a termination will be arrived at. If 
you look back at our history, what did 
eloquence, in the persons of Chatham 
or Burke, do to prevent a war with our 
first American colonies ? What did 
eloquence, in the persons of Fox and his 
friends, do to prevent the French revolu¬ 
tion, or bring it to a close ? And there 
was a man who at the commencement 
of the Crimean war, in terms of elo¬ 
quence, in power, and pathos, and argu¬ 
ment equal—in terms, I believe, fit to 
compare with anything that fell from 
the lips of Chatham and Burke—I mean 
your distinguished townsman, my friend 
Mr. Bright—and what was his success ? 
Why, they burnt him in effigy for his 
pains. 

Well, if we are here powerless as 
politicians to check a war at home, how 
useless and unavailing must it be for me 
to presume to affect in the slightest de¬ 
gree the results of the contest in America 1 
I may say I regret this dreadful and 
sanguinary war; we all regret it; but to 
attempt to scold them for fighting, to 
attempt to argue the case with either, 
and to reach them with any arguments, 
while they are standing in mortal com¬ 
bat, a million of them standing in arms 
and fighting to the death; to think that, 
by any arguments here, we are to influ¬ 
ence or be heard by the combatants 
engaged on the other side of the Atlantic, 
is utterly vain. I have travelled twice 
through almost every free State in 
America. I know most of the principals 
engaged in this dreadful contest on both 
sides. I have kept myself pretty well 
informed of all that is going on in that 
country; and yet, though I think I ought 
to be as well informed on this subject as 
most of my countrymen—Cabinet Min¬ 


4 * 

isters included yet, if you were to ask 
me how this contest is to end, I confess 
I should find myself totally at a loss to 
offer an opinion worth the slightest 
attention on the part of my hearers. 
But this I will say: If I were put to the 
torture, and compelled to offer a guess, 
I should not make the guess which Mr. 
Gladstone and Earl Russell have made 
on this subject. I don’t believe that, if 
the war in America is to be brought to 
a termination, it will be brought to an 
end by the separation of the South and 
North. There are great motives at 
work amongst the large majority of the 
people in America, which seem to me 
to drive them to this dreadful contest 
rather than see their country broken into 
two. Now, I don’t speak of it as hav¬ 
ing a great interest in it myself. I speak 
as to a fact. It may seem Utopian ; 
but I don’t feel sympathy for a gr'at 
nation, or for those who desire the 
greatness of a people by the vast exten¬ 
sion of empire. What I like to see is 
the growth, development, and elevation 
of the individual man. But we have 
had great empires at all times—Syria, 
Persia, and the rest. What trace have 
they left of the individual man? Nebu¬ 
chadnezzar, and the countless millions 
under his sway,— there is no more trace 
of them than of herds of buffaloes, or 
flocks of sheep. But look at your little 
States ; look at Greece, with its small 
territories, some not larger than an Eng¬ 
lish county? Italy, over some of whose 
States a man on horseback could ride in 
a day,—they have left traces of indivi¬ 
dual man, where civilisation has flour¬ 
ished, and humanity been elevated. It 
may appear Utopian, but we can never 
expect the individual elevated until a 
practical and better code of moral law 
prevails among nations, and until the 
small States obtain justice at the hands 
of the great. 

But leaving these matters : What are 
the facts of the present day — what 
appears to be the paramount instinct 
amongst the races of men ? Certainly 
not a desire to separate, but a desire to 
agglomerate, to bring together in greater 



*68 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 29, 


concentration the different races speak¬ 
ing the same language, and professing 
the same religion. What do you see 
going on in Italy,—what stirs now the 
heart of Germany—that moves Hungary ? 
Is it not wishing to get together ? I find 
in the nations of Europe no instinct 
pervading the mass of mankind which 
may lead them to a separation from each 
other; but that there is a powerful 
movement all through Europe for the 
agglomeration of races. But is it not 
very odd that statesmen here who have 
a profound sympathy for the movement 
in Italy in favour of unity, cannot at 
least appreciate a statesman in looking 
upon the probabilities and the chances 
of a civil contest — cannot also duly 
appreciate the force of that motive in the 
present contest in America? Three- 
fourths of the white population are 
contending against disunion ; they are 
following the instinct which is impelling 
the Italians, the Germans, and other 
populations of Europe ; and I have no 
doubt that one great and dominant 
motive in the minds of three-fourths of 
the white people in America is this :— 
They are afraid, if they become disunited, 
they will be treated as Italy has been 
treated when she was disunited—that a 
foreigner will come and set his intrusive 
foot upon it, and play off one against 
another to their degradation, and pro¬ 
bably subjection. Without pretending to 
offer an opinion myself, these are power¬ 
ful motives, and, if they are operating as 
they appear to operate, it may lead to a 
much more protracted contest than has 
been predicted by some of our statesmen. 

But the business we really have here 
as Englishmen is not to speculate upon 
what the Americans will do, for they 
will act totally independent of us. Give 
them your sympathy as a whole ; say, 

‘ Here is a most lamentable calamity 
that has befallen a great nation in its 
pride. ’ Give them your sympathy. La¬ 
ment over a great misfortune, but don’t 
attempt to scold and worry them, or 
dictate to them, or even to predict for 
them what will happen. But what is 
our duty towards them in this matter? 


Well, now, we have talked of strict 
neutrality. But I wish our statesmen, 
and particularly our cabinet Ministers, 
would enforce upon their own tongues a 
little of that principle of non-interven¬ 
tion which they profess to apply to their 
diplomacy. We are told very frequently 
at public meetings that we must recognise 
the South. Well, but that recognition 
of the South is always coupled with 
another object—it is, to obtain the cotton 
that you want, because, if it was not for 
the distress brought upon us by the civil 
war in America, I don’t think humanity 
would induce us to interfere any more 
than it does in wars going on in other 
parts of the world. 

But, now, let us try to dispel this float¬ 
ing fallacy which is industriously spread 
over the land,—probably by interested 
parties. Your recognition of the South 
would not give you cotton. The recog¬ 
nition of the South, in the minds of 
parties who use that term, is coupled 
with something more. There is an idea 
of going and interfering by force to put 
an end to that contest, in order that the 
cotton may be set free. If I were President 
Lincoln, and found myself rather in diffi¬ 
culty on account of the pressure of taxa¬ 
tion, and on account of the discord of par¬ 
ties in the Federal ranks, and if I wanted 
to see the whole population united as one 
man, and ready to make me a despot; 
if I could choose that post, and not only 
unite every man but every woman in my 
support,— then I could wish nothing 
better than that England or France, or 
both together, should come and attempt 
to interfere by force in this quarrel. 
You read now of the elections going on 
in America. And I look to those elec¬ 
tions with the greatest interest, as the 
only indications to guide me in forming 
a judgment of the future. You see it 
stated that in these elections there is some 
disunion of party. But let the foreigners 
attempt to interfere in that quarrel, and 
all old lines of demarcation are effaced 
forever. You will have one united po¬ 
pulation joining together to repel that 
intrusion. It was so in France, in their 
great revolutionary war. What begat 







1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


469 


the union there? What caused the Reign 
of Terror? What was it that ruined 
every man who breathed a syllable of 
dissent from the despotic and bloody 
Government enthroned in Paris—what 
was it but the cry of alarm that ‘the 
foreigner is invading us, ’ and the feeling 
that these were the betrayers of the 
country, because they were the friends 
of the foreigner? But your interference 
would not obtain cotton. Your inter¬ 
ference would have, in the present state 
of armaments, very little effect upon the 
combatants there. If people were gen¬ 
erally better acquainted with the geo¬ 
graphy of that country and the state of its 
population, they would see how much 
we are apt to exaggerate even our power 
to interfere to produce any result in that 
contest. The policy to be pursued by 
the North will be decided by the elections 
in the great Western States : I mean 
the great grain-growing region of the 
Mississippi valley. If the States of 
Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, 
W inconsin, and Minnesota—if those 
States determine to carry on this war—if 
they say, ‘ We will never make peace 
and give up the mouth of the Mississippi, 
which drains our 10,000 miles of navi¬ 
gable waters into the Gulf of M exico; we 
will never make peace while that river 
is in the hands of a foreign Power, ’—why, 
all the Powers of Europe cannot reach 
that ‘ far West ’ to coerce it. It is 1,000 
miles inland across the Rocky Moun¬ 
tains, or 1,000 miles up the Mississippi, 
with all its windings, before you get to 
that vast region-—that region which is 
rich beyond all the rest of the world 
besides, peopled by ten or twelve mil¬ 
lions of souls, doubling in numbers every 
few years. It is that region which will 
be the depository in future of the wealth 
and numbers of that great Continent; 
and whatever the decision of that re¬ 
gion is, New York, and New England, 
and Pennsylvania will agree with that 
decision. 

Therefore, watch what the determina¬ 
tion of that people is; and if they 
determine to carry on the war, whatever 
the hideous proportions of that war may 


be, and however it may affect your 
interests, be assured that it is idle to 
talk—idle as the talk of children—as if 
it were possible for England to pretend, 
if it would, to carry on hostilities in the 
West. And, for my part, I think the 
language which is used sometimes in 
certain quarters with regard to the 
power of this country to go and impose 
its will upon the population in America, 
is something almost savouring of the 
ludicrous. When America had but 
2,500,000 people, we found it impos¬ 
sible to enforce our will upon that popu¬ 
lation ; but the progress and tendency 
of modern armaments are such, that 
where you have to deal with a rich and 
civilised people, having the same me¬ 
chanical appliances as you have, and 
where that people number fifteen or 
twenty millions, it is next to impossible 
for any force to be transported across 
the Atlantic able to coerce that people. 
I should wish, therefore, that idea of 
force — and oh 1 Englishmen have a 
terrible tendency to think they can re¬ 
sort to force—should be abandoned on 
this occasion. The case is utterly un¬ 
manageable by force, and interference 
could only do harm. What good would 
it do to the population of this country ? 
You would not get your cotton ; but if 
you could, what price would you pay 
for it ? I know something of the way 
in which money is voted in the House 
of Commons for warlike armaments, 
even in time of peace, and I have seen 
what was done during a year and a half 
of war. I will venture to say, that it 
would be cheaper to keep all the popu¬ 
lation engaged in the cotton manufacture 
—ay, to keep them upon turtle, cham¬ 
pagne, and venison—than to send to 
America to obtain cotton by force of 
arms. That would involve you in a 
war, and six months of that war would 
cost more money than would be required 
to maintain this population comfortably 
for ten years. 

No, gentlemen ; what we should en¬ 
deavour to do, as the result of this war, 
is to put an end to that system of warfare 
which brings this calamity home to our 



470 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 29, 


doors, by making such alterations in the 
maritime law of nations which affects 
the rights of belligerents and neutrals, 
as will render it impossible, in the 
future, for innocent non-combatants and 
neutrals here to be made to suffer, as 
they now do, almost as much as those 
who are carrying on the war there. 
Well, if you can, out of this great 
disaster, make such a reform as will 
prevent the recurrence of such another, 
it is, perhaps, all that you can do in the 
matter. I won’t enter into that subject 
now, because I have entered at some 
length into it elsewhere, and I shall 
have to deal with it again in the House 
of Commons. All I wish to say is this 
—that it is in the power of England to 
adopt such a system of maritime law, 
with the ready assent of all the other 
Powers, as will prevent the possibility 
of such a state of things being brought 
upon us in future. And I will say this, 
that I doubt the wisdom—I certainly 
doubt the prudence—of a great body of 
industrious people allowing themselves 
to continually live in dependence upon 
foreign Powers for the supply of food 
and raw material, knowing that a system 
of warfare exists by which, at any mo¬ 
ment, without notice, without any help 
on their part or means of prevention, 
they are liable to have the raw material 
or the food withdrawn from them—cut 
off from them suddenly—without any 
power to resist or hinder it. 

Now, that is the only good that I can 
see that we can do for ourselves in this 
matter. Yes; there is one other good 
thing that we might do. We have seen 
a great country, in the very height of 
its power, feeling itself almost exempt 
from the ordinary calamities of older 
nations, — we have seen that country 
suddenly prostrated, and become a cause 
of sorrow rather than of envy or ad¬ 
miration to its friends elsewhere; and 
what should be the monition to us ? 
Ask ourselves whether there is any great 
injustice unredressed in this country? 
Ask if there is any flaw in our institutions 
in England requiring an adjustment or 
correction, one that, if not dealt with 


in time, may lead to a great disaster 
like that in America? It is not by 
stroking our beards, and turning up our 
eyes like the Pharisee, and thanking 
Pleaven we are not as other men are, 
that we learn ; but it is by studying such 
a calamity as this ; by asking ourselves, 
is there anything in our dealings with 
Ireland, is there anything in India, is 
there anything appertaining to the rights 
and franchises of the great mass of our 
own population, that requires dealing 
with ? If so, let what has taken place 
in America be a warning to us, and let 
us deal with an evil while it is time, and 
not allow it to find us out in the hour of 
distress and adversity. 

Now, gentlemen, it was impossible 
to talk to you to-night without dealing 
with the subject that is uppermost in all 
our minds. But, before I sit down, I 
will just say a word or two upon the 
general subject referred to in the resolu¬ 
tion that has been submitted to you. 
You have been told in the resolution 
certain things, which, I am sorry to say, 
I cannot deny ; you have been told that 
the Government have not kept their 
promises. That is a very common 
thing. You have been told that they 
ought either to keep their promises, or 
retire from office ; that would be a very 
uncommon thing. Certainly they have 
not kept their promises, if they promised 
you retrenchment and reform. I was 
not in England when the new party 
combination was made, when there was 
a compact entered into at Willis’s 
Rooms. But I think our friend Aider- 
man Livsey has very properly said—I 
don’t feel sure whether he used the term ; 
if not, I am sure he will excuse me if I 
attribute it to him—he said that the 
Radicals were ‘sold’ on that occasion. 
[‘Hear,’from Mr. Aid. Livsey.] You 
have had, it is true, a very large addition 
made to the expenditure of this country. 
But why has it been made? How has 
it happened? Why, it is nearly all 
made for the purpose of warlike defences 
in a time of peace. There is your great 
item of expense. It has been incurred 
to protect you against some imaginary 






iS 62 . 


FOREGN POLICY. VIII. 


danger. Now, what has been the in¬ 
crease of which I speak? In 1835, 
when Sir R. Peel and the Duke of 
Wellington were at the head of the 
Government, our military and naval 
armaments cost under twelve millions 
per annum. Well, now, including the 
money voted for fortifications, our ex¬ 
penditure last year was nearly three 
times that,—nearly thirty millions ster¬ 
ling. Why is that ? Sir R. Peel and 
the Duke of Wellington certainly could 
not be considered rash, unpatriotic men, 
who had not a full sense of their re¬ 
sponsibility as guardians of the honour 
and safety of this realm. How is it, 
then, that we require pretty nearly three 
times as much to defend us now as was 
required in the time of Sir R. Peel’s 
Government ? Why, there is no doubt 
that it has been in consequence, entirely, 

I may say, in consequence of the alleged 
designs of our next door neighbour; and 
there is no doubt, also—there can be no 
doubt—that the person who has been 
prompting all this expenditure, on the 
ground that we were in danger of an 
attack from France, has been the present 
Prime Minister. There is no doubt 
about that. 

Now, I said something about this 
when I met you twelve months ago 
here. I was fresh come from France, 
where I had as good opportunities as 
anybody had of knowing all about it. I 
was living eighteen months in France, 
and everything was open to me or my 
friends; anybody might go to the dock¬ 
yard by my applying for an order. I 
had access to every document, every 
public paper. I told you this twelve 
months ago, what I repeat now, that 
this country had been as much deluded 
and hoaxed on the subject of the increase 
of the French navy as ever this country 
had been hoaxed since the time of Titus 
Oates. Now, since this last winter, not 
being able to speak, and not being 
able to be idle, I employed myself in 
writing out an exactly detailed account, 
year by year, of all the expenditure 
and amount of armaments that were 
maintained by France and England for 


47 * 

their respective navies, —a most elaborate 
and detailed account, in which I quoted 
from official authorities at every step ; 
not an anonymous publication, for I 
published it under my own name. That 
little work brought heavy indictments 
against our public men, charging them 
with the grossest misrepresentation. I 
stated—I never attribute motives to any 
man, for there is nothing so unprofitable; 
and I admit I may have made the state¬ 
ments in ignorance, but—I made the 
charge against your Prime Minister and 
others, but against him most prominently, 
of grossly deluding the public on the 
subject of the armaments of France, 
having, first of all, managed to delude 
himself on the subject. I am not going 
to give you any of the details or statistics 
which I brought together in that little 
publication, but I will give you a sum¬ 
mary in two lines. I took great trouble 
and pains to make out a tabular state¬ 
ment of the amount of money expended 
in the French and English dockyards 
from 1835 every year down to 1859, and 
I took at the same time a tabular state¬ 
ment of the number of seamen main¬ 
tained each year by the two countries. 
The result was as I have already broadly 
stated — that, so far from the present 
Government of France having increased 
its preparations of naval force as com¬ 
pared with our own, it was far less, year 
by year, in proportion to ours, than it 
had been from the time of Louis 
Philippe, when Sir R. Peel was in office. 

I will give a comparison between the 
first and last years of the two dates. 
The expenditure for wages in the English 
and French dockyards, and the number 
of seamen in the English and French, 
navies, in 1835, when Sir R. Peel and 
the Duke of Wellington were in power, 
and in 1859, the year preceding that 
in which Lord Palmerston proposed his 
vast scheme of fortifications, was — in 
1835 : English expenditure in dockyards, 
376 , 377 ^; French, 343,032/. In 1859 : 
English expenditure in dockyards, 
1,582,112/.; French, 772,931/.; making 
the English increase 1,205,735/., an d ^ le 
French, 429,899/. ; so that the English 




4;2 


OCT. 29, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


outlay within the period was nearly three 
times as great as the French. The num¬ 
ber of seamen — for the comparative 
power of any two naval countries is 
known by the number of its seamen— 
the number of British seamen employed 
in 1855 was 26,041 ; in 1859, 72,400; 
the number of French seamen engaged in 
the same periods, was 16,628 and 38,470 
respectively; showing the French in¬ 
crease to have been less than half that 
of England. 

Now, I have told you that the whole 
of the opinion of this country upon the 
subject of the naval preparations of 
France has originated in the misrepre¬ 
sentations of our present Prime Minister, 
and this brings us to the very part re¬ 
ferred to in the resolution before you. 
There is no doubt that, when the present 
Government came into power, one of 
their great claims to the confidence of 
the Liberal party was that they should 
keep on friendly terms with France, since 
the danger was that the Tories would go 
to war with France. Well, what has 
been the course pursued ever since the 
present Prime Minister came into office? 
Why, for three years, he has hardly 
attended a public meeting of any kind, 
whether it has been social, political, 
charitable, or anything else, but he has 
somehow contrived to insinuate in it 
something of an apprehension of an in¬ 
vasion from France. Promising us peace 
with France, he has been calling out 
‘invasion’ ever since. We ought to 
advertise, ‘Wanted, a Minister, who, 
whilst promising, par excellence , to keep 
the peace with France, shall give the 
tax-payers of this country some of the 
advantages of peace.’ The practice of 
a ruffian that walks your streets is to 
keep himself from harm by carrying a 
bludgeon, or perhaps a knife in his 
pocket. But that is not the mode of pre¬ 
serving peace which respectable people 
adopt. We want a Minister who, if 
he has a good understanding with the 
Government of France, has the skill to 
employ that good understanding with 
the Government of France in such a 
manner as would bring about economy 


and rational relationships between the 
two countries by promoting a diminu¬ 
tion rather than an increase of forces. 

But now, what shall we say of a 
statesman who, whilst professing to be 
afraid of an invasion from France, who 
is constantly telling you that you must be 
armed—armed, constantly armed and 
drilled, because you may be attacked any 
night from the other side of the Channel 
—but who is, at the very same time, 
carrying on a most close and intimate 
system of alliances, even entering into 
joint expeditions in various parts of the 
world, and, in fact, going into partner¬ 
ship with a warlike purpose with the 
very man who at any night might become 
an invader? Now, I ask you, if you 
read of Chatham or Sir R. Peel doing 
such things as that, would they have ever 
stood out in history as men deserving for 
one moment the serious esteem of thou¬ 
sands of mankind ? Why, it is making 
statesmanship a joke. It is making a 
wry face on one side in the w r ay of a 
laugh, and on the other side it is making 
a profession of solemnity. It is a mere 
joke ; it is not serious thought. But it 
is more. If the man is in earnest when 
he tells you that he apprehends a danger 
of an invasion at any time from the other 
side of the Channel, where must be his 
intelligence, his patriotism, if he enters 
into partnership with the very man that 
he is afraid is coming to play him such 
a clandestine trick as that ? If he believes 
what he says, he ought to avoid all 
contact with such a man, since he was 
mistaken in his estimate of the man’s 
character. If he is not serious, why 
then he still more betrays the country 
that he rules, because he offers to that 
man insults ; and he is continually giving 
him and his country an inducement to 
play that statesman a scurvy trick, and 
through him the people whom such a 
statesman drags into an alliance. 

Now, I have told you, and I tell it 
you upon my honour, and could give it 
you on the most solemn pledge, that I 
can give it to my countrymen or my con¬ 
stituents—I tell you that there is not a 
shadow of foundation in fact for all that 



1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


478 


has been said by the Prime Minister for 
the last three years upon the subject of 
an increase of the French navy in relation 
to our own. For, bear in mind, that cry 
of invasion would have done nothing 
unless it had been backed by some¬ 
thing more practical and substantial to 
satisfy the practical English mind. We 
have been told over and over again—I 
have heard it myself—that France was 
making great preparations to equal 
us as a naval Power. I tell you that 
there is not the slightest shadow of 
foundation in fact for such a statement. 
I have shown you what France spent in 
her dockyards during the year 1859 ; 
that, while we spent in 1859—the year 
before the fortification scheme (upon 
which I am going to say a word)— 
1,582,000/. in our dockyards for wages 
only, for the wages of artificers, in 
constructing ships of war, France spent 
772,000/., or less than one-half; and as 
we can build ships so much cheaper than 
France, that we can send ships to France 
and pay a duty of twenty per cent, upon 
them—then, I ask you how could France, 
having spent less than half for wages in 
her dockyards, wheie her artisans are 
acknowledged to be inferior to ours, — 
how could France, spending half the 
money we spent, have been in the way 
of preparing a fleet to rival or to equal 
our own? When I was in France, and 
those statements were constantly made, 
I confess to you I was ashamed of them 
as an Englishman — placed there to 
represent, in a certain sense, the Queen 
and this great country —I was ashamed of 
those constant statements that were being 
made by the Prime Minister of this coun¬ 
try to the House of Commons ; while 
the Government of France was lost in 
bewilderment as to the motives of these 
repeated assertions. My friend M. 
Chevallier—who is not only my friend, 
but also the friend of every man who 
wishes for pregressand the enlightenment 
and prosperity of mankind—he and I 
spent many an hour over the statistics of 
the two countries, trying if we could find 
a shadow of foundation for the state¬ 
ments that were constantly being made in 


England with a view to excite you to a 
jealousy and a fear of the French nation; 
and we could not find the slightest shadow 
of a ground for anything that had been 
said. The Government of France put 
forward in their organs of the press the 
most emphatic denial of those state¬ 
ments ; but, not merely that, several of 
our most able practical men in the House 
of Commons—so astonished and puzzled 
were they by the constant statements 
made there by the Prime Minister— 
actually took the trouble either to go to 
France themselves, or to send trusty 
agents. For instance, Mr. Lindsay went 
to France, and himself consulted the 
Minister of Marine ; Mr. Dalgleish, the 
Member for Glasgow, who had been 
appointed on a commission to examine 
into our dockyards, went to France 
himself to inquire into the matter; Sir 
Morton Peto sent a trusted agent, a 
practical man, who was allowed to go 
and visit the French dockyards. Others 
took the same course, and they came 
back to the House of Commons, and 
stated their convictions of the utter 
groundlessness of these statements. 

Now, what motive, I ask you, could 
be sufficient to make a public man like 
myself come before you and advance 
these statements, if they were not true ? 
What motive could those Members of 
Parliament of whom I have been speak¬ 
ing—they were not official men—what 
motive could they have but the best and 
most patriotic of motives, in going to 
France to satisfy themselves of the truth 
of this matter? Well, then, I say there 
is not a shadow of foundation for the 
statements that have been made. I will 
tell you what there is a truth in,—we 
have spent money, no doubt, in building 
useless and antiquated vessels ; we went 
on wasting our money upon sailing ves¬ 
sels long after it was known that nothing 
but steam-vessels would be of any use ; 
we have gone on squandering our money 
upon wooden vessels long after it was 
known that iron would supersede wood. 
Well, but France has not wasted quite 
so much as we have. I don’t give her 
or any other Government credit for being 



474 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 29, 


quite so economical and so wise as it 
should be in the matter of its expend¬ 
iture; but France, not having spent her 
money quite so foolishly as we generally 
have, has managed to present something 
that was going to be done a little earlier 
than we did; and it was because we 
had wasted our money in useless con¬ 
structions that we raised the cry of an 
invasion from France to cover the mis¬ 
deeds and defalcations of our own Go¬ 
vernment. Recollect, I am not now 
leaving this an open question as to 
whether France had certain designs 
upon us. I don’t rest my case upon 
any assumed friendliness on the part of 
any Government. I am speaking as to 
matters of fact, and I say that you have 
been grossly, you have been completely 
deluded. This country has been misled 
altogether by the statements that have 
been made from what should have been 
the highest authorities upon the subject 
of the preparations of France. 

Well, now, it was under this state of 
things,—I have told you what the com¬ 
parative strength of the English and 
French navies in 1859 was, —that the 
very year following, Lord Palmerston 
brought forward his gigantic scheme of 
fortifications for this country, and that 
is a subject upon which I wish to say a 
word or two, because it has in one sense 
a far more important bearing than any 
other on our military and naval expend¬ 
iture. I11 the session of i860, the Prime 
Minister himself brought forward a 
scheme of fortifications for which he pro¬ 
posed to borrow money. The original 
scheme embraced vast detached forts in 
the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, going 
over the South Downs some seven or 
eight miles—so vast, so extensive, so far 
inland, that we passed an Act in the 
House of Commons to abolish an ancient 
fair, at which cattle were sold on the 
South Downs, in order that the place 
might be occupied with these great forts ; 
it embraced a plan for a large fort in the 
midland counties, on Cannock Chase ; 
and the whole scheme was devised at an 
estimated cost of about nine or ten mil¬ 
lions sterling, but by those who thought 


upon the subject—I was in Paris while 
all this was going on—it was said that it 
would be more likely to reach twenty 01- 
thirty millions than nine or ten, if it were 
ever allowed to begin. In bringing for¬ 
ward that measure for these fortifications, 
not one word was said in the speech of 
the Prime Minister respecting our ability 
to defend ourselves at sea, though our 
force was double that of Franee; he 
assumed that an enemy would land and 
burn our dockyards, and these fortifica¬ 
tions were devised in order to protect 
our fleets. Why, I always used to think 
our navy was intended to defend us, and 
that we had not occasion to build forts 
to defend our navy. You remember the 
anecdote told of Nelson, when he had 
an audience of George III., during the 
great French war, and during the time 
when there was a talk of invasion. The 
King said, in his curious repetitive way, 

‘ Well, Admiral, well, Admiral, do you 
think the French will come? do you 
think the French will come? do you 
think the French will come?’ ‘Well,’ 
replied Nelson, ‘ I can only answer for 
it that they will not come by sea.’ Well, 
we seem to have abandoned altogether 
that confidence in our navy. I think, 
after having spent twice as much as the 
French for making our navy, and paying 
for twice as many sailors to man our 
navy, that we are cowards if we are 
assuming that any enemy is coming to 
land upon our shores. But, however, 
this great scheme of fortifications was 
brought in, and it was passed like every¬ 
thing else is in this House of Commons. 

Now, I will tell you what the effect of 
that will be, and, perhaps, it has not been 
sufficiently thought of by the country. 
You are borrowing the money to make 
these fortifications—borrowing it for 
thirty years. Mark the insidious process 
by which you are allowing this grand 
scheme to be accomplished. If the Go¬ 
vernment had to ask every year for the 
money in the Estimates to come out of 
the taxes, I would engage for it that the 
1,200,000/. wanted the last session would 
not have been voted, because it would 
have been needful to lay on fresh taxes, 






1862. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


475 


and fresh taxes would not have been laid 
on. But they borrowed the money, and 
so this expenditure of pretty nearly a 
million and a quarter is got from a loan. 
I will tell you what the consequence will 
be. You are going on building fortifica¬ 
tions, which, according to the estimate 
of Sir Frederick Smith, the Member for 
Chatham, who opposed this scheme 
from beginning to end—and he is about 
the highest authority we have in the 
House of Commons, for he has been a 
professor of engineering, and is a man of 
high and acknowledged talent—according 
to the estimate of Sir Frederick Smith, 
those great forts in the neighbourhood 
of Portsmouth alone will require 30,000 
men to man them, and the other forts 
will require 60,000 or 70,000 more men 
to man them. Now, once build those 
forts, and you must have an army to 
keep them, otherwise you must blow 
them up again, because nothing can be 
more unwise, as everybody will see, 
than to build forts and leave them unpro¬ 
tected, to be taken and occupied by an 
enemy. I will tell you what this scheme 
is. I don’t say what men’s motives are, 
—I only tell you what the effect of this 
scheme will be. We are just now get¬ 
ting into a discussion with respect to the 
policy of keeping an army for the de¬ 
fence of our colonies. Very soon that 
discussion will ripen—as all discussions 
in this country are apt in time to do— 
into a triumph of the true principle, and 
the colonists, who are much better able 
to do so than we are, will be left to de¬ 
fend themselves, or, if they call upon us 
to defend them, will have to contribute 
towards the expense. We shall be able 
to withdraw from the Colonies, nobody 
can tell how many—it may be 20,000— 
troops. Here you have a plan—I don’t 
attribute motives—but, if the design was 
to prepare a mode by which the govern¬ 
ing class of this country, who, unless they 
have been very much maligned, would 
like excuses for keeping up our military 
establishments, could keep them up— 
here will be a good excuse furnished 
them for keeping every man of those 
troops at home. You will have the forti¬ 


fications built, and you must have an 
army to put into them, and that will be 
just the result of this fortification scheme. 

Well, gentlemen, there is no doubt in 
the world that all this is the work of one 
man; it is the work of your Prime 
Minister. I don’t question the man’s 
sincerity, but he is under an impression, 
he is under a delusion, I don’t hardly 
know what to call it, because I wish to 
observe the proprieties, but he is under 
the delusion that he is living in about 
1808, and, as long as he lives, you will 
not rescue him from that delusion. I 
can make every allowance for one in his 
position for entertaining such delusions, 
but what must we say of his colleagues ? 
They are silent. The Prime Minister 
has to start up every moment to defend 
every detail of the plan of fortifications. 
If the Minister at War gets up to say a 
word upon it, it is in such a languid 
fashion, with such a total absence evi¬ 
dently of all knowledge on the subject, 
that it savours of the burlesque. Mr. 
Gladstone has never said one word in 
support of this grand scheme. I need 
not say that such men as Mr. Milner 
Gibson and Mr. Villiers are entirely 
silent upon it. It is wholly the work ot 
one man, and that is the Prime Minister; 
and there is not a man in the House of 
Commons who, behind the scenes, will 
not admit that it would be impossible 
to carry out such a scheme as that, if it 
were not the act of the present Prime 
Minister. It is opposed more or less in 
its details, and denounced by every 
authority. You saw the opposition to 
it last session, which was not on the 
part of the so-called peace men; our 
friend Mr. Bright was not present for a 
great period of it, but it was opposed by 
eminent naval and military authorities. 
It was opposed by Sir Frederick Smith, 
the hon. Member for Chatham, and by 
Mr. Bernal Osborne. It was such men 
as these who opposed this scheme, and 
yet it was carried by the Prime Minister. 

Now, I say, what shall be said of his 
colleagues ? What shall be said of the 
House of Commons? No doubt these 
great monstrosities and excrescences in 




OCT. 29, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


476 

our towns, on our plains, and on our 
heaths, will be ridiculed by future gener¬ 
ations, will be looked at and pointed at 
as Palmerston’s follies. Well, there may 
be an excuse for a Minister verging on 
four-score, who was brought up in the 
middle of the wars of the first French 
Revolution—there may be an excuse for 
him. But what excuse is there for the 
manhood and intellect of this country in 
allowing itself to be dragged into waste¬ 
ful extravagance and follies like this, 
and to be made the laughing-stock of 
nations, to gratify the whim, the mere 
whim, of a Prime Minister? Are we 
not become as politicians an enfeebled 
generation? Look at the speeches that 
are made everywhere. What is there 
in them ? Is there no taste for anything 
having good stuff in it,—having, what 
you call, the weft in it? We seem to 
have fallen or entered upon our decline, 
unless some revival or vigorous effort is 
made to get us out of the terrible trouble 
in which this district is now involved. 
How is it that such a state of things as 
this can exist in Parliament? I’ll tell 
you how it is: we have not an honest 
state of parties in Parliament. That is 
the whole thing in a few words. It is a 
hard truth, but it is the truth, that 
parties are not on an honest basis in 
Parliament. You have got a Prime 
Minister who is at your head, who pro¬ 
fesses to lead the Liberal party, and—as 
I have said to his face in the House of 
Commons—is about the staunchest Tory 
we have there. The consequence is, 
that the Tories—particularly the most 
antiquated and incorrigible Tories—are 
not the men who intend to be in office; 
they could not go farther than he does; 
and so the Tories who sit below the 
gangway, on the Opposition side, are 
supporting the present Prime Minister. 
And why ? For a very good reason. 
He spends far more money to obstruct 
reform, and that more effectually, than 
the Tories would, if they were in office. 
I volunteer my deliberate opinion that 
he is spending five millions more of the 
nation’s money every year than would 
be spent if the Tories were in power. 


We are in this most anomalous position: 
the High Tories are in power, but not 
in office. We, the Liberals, are respons¬ 
ible for what is being done, and if we 
protest against it, our leader calls in the 
aid of the Opposition, and the Tories 
enable him to carry his measures in spite 
of us. There cannot be anything more 
unfortunate for the country than such a 
state of parties. There can be nothing 
so bad in public or private as a man 
holding a position for which he is not 
responsible, which is the position the 
Prime Minister occupies at this moment. 
He is not responsible to us; he carries 
on the policy of the Tories, and is sup¬ 
ported by them. And there is no remedy 
for this state of things, that I am aware 
of, but in the change that shall make 
the party which is ruling and governing 
become responsible for the Government. 

Now, let us suppose that, instead of 
our being on the Government side, we 
were on the Opposition, and let us 
suppose Mr. Disraeli in power with 
Lord Derby. You might say it is the 
practice of the Tory party to spend as 
much as they can for the military and 
the naval services. That is true, unless 
we have very much maligned them all 
our days. Not that the Tory party has 
been desirous of engaging in a larger 
expenditure than the present Ministry 
has. But bear in mind, that from the 
moment they got into office other motives 
came into play. They will make great 
sacrifices of their own interests in the 
way of expenditure in order to preserve 
office, and when they are in power they 
will immediately begin to carry out 
works of reform and retrenchment in 
order to remain there. But, whilst they 
are in Opposition, as they are now, they 
are willing enough to see all this ex¬ 
travagance and all this obstruction of 
reform on the part of a so-called Liberal 
Government, because it is doing two 
things : it is giving them an expenditure 
which they like, while it does not saddle 
them with the responsibilities of office. 
But it is doing another thing : it is so 
damaging the so-called Liberal party, 
that they know it is only a question of 




186-2. 


FOREIGN POLICY. VIII. 


time as to when we shall go out of 
power, and the more they can tar us 
with their own brush before we leave, 
the less we shall have to say in opposi¬ 
tion to them when they get there. I 
don’t argue in favour of bringing any 
party into power, but what I do say is 
this, that it is dishonouring to us, the 
so-called Liberals, to sit where we are 
on the Government side of the House 
and see everything administered in op¬ 
position to, and in downright derision 
of, our principles. And it must come 
to this question, ‘ Will or can this 
system go on much longer?’ We have 
two principles at work in our Cabinet, 
as there are two principles at work in 
every individual, and in every body of 
men—there is the good principle, and 
there is also the evil principle. During 
the first two years of this Government’s 
existence, the good principle had some 
influence and power, and it was mani¬ 
fested in those great and those conclusive 
reforms of the tariff carried out by Mr. 
Gladstone, in conjunction with the 
French Treaty. This was, to a certain 
extent, the triumph of the good principle 
in the Cabinet. That occurred in 1861. 
There was the completion of reform in 
our tariff, so far as protective duties 
were concerned, and there was the 
repeal of the paper duty, both being 
great and comprehensive measures. But 
during the last session of Parliament the 
evil principle of the Cabinet was wholly 
predominant, and gave us no compen¬ 
sation whatever in the form of good 
measures. 

Now, is that to be continued next 
session? If it be, well then, I say, it is 
quite impossible, if the so-called Liberal 
party be true to itself, that they can 
continue to give their support to the 
present Government. It would be be¬ 
traying the people, the constituents that 
send us to Parliament. We sit there, 
and know what is going on. We are 
behind the scenes, and we see what is 
vulgarly called in the prize ring ‘a 
cross ’ being fought between the leader 
of our party and the worst part of the 
party opposite, by which we are victim¬ 


477 

ised and you are betrayed. But to 
continue to witness that, and to connive 
at it, we betray our trust. We must 
separate ourselves from that state of 
things if it is to go on any longer. You 
cannot expect the constituents to fight 
the battles of reform if they see that 
their chief who represents them in the 
House of Commons is in fact handing 
them over to their enemies. Why, how 
would M'Clellan’s troops fight in the 
army of the Potomac, if they knew that 
M'Clellan had a secret understanding 
with Jefferson Davis and Beauregard? 
Now that seems to be very much our 
case, as a Liberal party. 

Well, gentlemen, there will be some¬ 
thing for us to do next session. We 
shall see. We shall see whether the 
good or the evil principle is predominant 
in the Cabinet, and the proof will be 
found in the measures of next session. 
I can only say for myself, that if the 
next session is to be anything like the 
last, and I should not be deprived of 
my vocal powers by the frosts of the 
winter, you may depend upon it my 
voice will be raised in protest against 
such a state of things. And I will do 
my best to put an end to it. I will not 
forget the resolution you have passed— 
that if the Ministry don’t carry out their 
pledges and their principles, the best 
thing for them will be to go into Op¬ 
position. 

I have only a word more to say. We 
are not merely dealing with financial 
reform. I am of opinion — and the 
opinion grows every day, in spite of the 
apparent apathy that is on the surface— 
I am more and more of opinion that the 
true solution of our political difficulties 
—I mean this state of parties—will 
only be found in reform of Parliament. 

I hold to that opinion more and more. 

I don’t see what it is to be, or where it 
is to go to ; but this I know, that the 
longer you wait for reform the more you 
will have, because these changes always 
pay great interest for keeping. For my 
part, I am moderate — people, when 
they get grey-haired, always get mode¬ 
rate : I should like something done, 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


OCT. 29, 1862. 


478 

and done quickly; but of this I am 
certain, that you can have no great 
rectification of this state of parties until 
you have a reform of Parliament, or, at 
all events, a party in opposition that is 
honestly advocating a reform of Parlia¬ 
ment. We are frequently asked, * What 
would that do ? ’ I am not fond of 
predictions; but, as that has been thrown 
out as a challenge—as they frequently 
say, ‘ What would you get by a reform 
of Parliament that you don’t get now ? ’ 
—I will answer that challenge. It is 
my firm belief that, with a thorough 
representation of the people of this 
country, the extravagant expenditure in 
warlike armaments in time of peace 
would not be possible. I don’t say that 
the whole people would not go to war 
sometimes. I should not pretend to say 
that the English people are altogether 
certain to keep the peace ; but this I do 
say, that there is something in the self- 
assurance, and in the dignity, and in the 
high sense of security which great mul¬ 
titudes of men feel, which would prevent 
their lending themselves to these delu¬ 
sions, to burden themselves with these 
enormous expenses, in order to protect 
themselves against imaginary dangers. 
The late panics with regard to Fiance 


never penetrated amongst the mass ot 
the workingpeople—theyrested amongst 
a section of the middle and upper classes. 
If anybody asks me the question in a 
spirit of defiance, ‘ What could you do 
with a reform of Parliament that you 
cannot do now?’ I assure you,—I do 
not say it as any more than an opinion, 
though it is my earnest belief, that if 
you had a thorough representation in 
Parliament, you could not persuade the 
people of this country to spend half the 
money that is now spent under the 
pretence of protecting them, but which 
is really spent in order that certain 
parties may get some sort of benefit out 
of it. I am very sorry to have detained 
you so long. [‘ Go on.’] You know I 
never give any peroration to my speeches. 
When I have finished, I sit down. 

I have nothing more to say, but to 
thank you most cordially for this kind 
and friendly welcome, sincerely hoping 
that your stout hearts may hear you 
manfully through your present difficulties, 
believing, as I do, that our countrymen 
will come gladly to your rescue, and 
assuring you, as I do, that wherever I 
may be, my humble voice and influence 
shall not be wanting, in any way, to aid 
you in your present difficulties. 









FOREIGN POLICY. 

IX. 

ROCHDALE, NOVEMBER 23, 1864. 

[The following was the last Speech which Mr. Cobden made. The allusion in the first 
paragraph was to the loss which Mr. Bright had just sustained in the death of a son.] 


Before I commence the few remarks 
I haveto offer, I must be permitted to join 
in the expression of my profound sym¬ 
pathy with the language of condolence 
which you have used towards my esteemed 
friend, and your absent and bereaved 
neighbour (Mr. Bright). The feeling 
that has been shown by thousands here 
to-night is one that will be felt by mil¬ 
lions in all parts of the world. May he 
take consolation by the consciousness of 
that deep feeling of sympathy and sorrow 
with which the knowledge of his bereave¬ 
ment will be followed ! 

Nor can I allow this occasion to pass 
without noticing a blank in our ranks 
upon the platform to-night. I have 
never attended a public meeting at Roch¬ 
dale which has not been animated by 
the presence of our departed friend. 
You will know to whom I allude—Mr. 
Alderman Livsey. By his death the 
most numerous portion of the community 
of Rochdale has lost an amiable neigh¬ 
bour, and in many cases a powerful pro¬ 
tector and advocate. And quite sure I 
am that all classes and all parties would 
concur in inscribing this epitaph upon 
his monument, — ‘ that he was an honest 
and consistent politician, an earnest and 
true friend.’ 

Now, gentlemen, when I see this vast 
assembly before me—and it is certainly 


the largest meeting on one floor that I 
have ever had the honour of attending— 
my only regret is my inability, I fear, to 
make the whole audience hear what I 
would wish to say to them ; but if those 
upon the outside will have patience, 
and if they will practise some of that 
principle of non-intervention in the affairs 
of their neighbours which our friend Mr. 
Ashworth has just been so eloquently 
advocating—I mean, with their elbows 
and their toes—I will endeavour in as 
short time as possible to make myself 
heard by those who are present. 

It is not much my habit when I come 
before you, in pursuance of the good 
custom of a representative paying at least 
one annual visit to his constituents, to 
recapitulate what has occurred in the 
preceding session of Parliament. I 
have taken it generally for granted that 
you have been paying attention to what 
has passed, and that you do not require 
any retrospective criticism at my hands. 
But I am disposed to make the last ses¬ 
sion an exception to my rule, and I will 
offer a few remarks upon what has 
passed during that session in order to 
illustrate and expound that question to 
which Mr. Ashworth has alluded,—I 
mean the question of non-intervention, 
and to show you how, in my opinion, 
the proceedings of the last session of 



43 o 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 


Parliament have necessarily led to a 
complete revolution in our foreign policy, 
and must put an impassable gull between 
the old traditions of our Foreign-office 
and that which I hope to see adopted as 
the foreign policy of this country. 

Now, during the thirty years since I 
first gave utterance by pen or voice to 
a sentiment in public, I have always 
attached the utmost importance to the 
principle of non-intervention in the affairs 
of foreigners. I have looked upon it as 
a fundamental article in the creed of this 
country, if we would either secure good 
government at home, or protect ourselves 
against endless embarrassments and com¬ 
plications abroad. You may remember, 
the last time I had the honour of address¬ 
ing you here, I was complaining of the 
incessant violation of this principle ; how 
I compared the state of a country which 
is always engaged in looking after the 
affairs of foreign countries, to what would 
be the case in Rochdale if your Town 
Council were engaged in managing the 
affairs of Leeds or Blackburn instead of 
attending to their own business. 

Well, we met at the last session of 
Parliament, and the Queen’s Speech 
announced to us impending negotiations 
respecting the affairs of Sleswig- Holstein. 
From the opening debate on the Queen’s 
Speech, throughout the whole session 
of Parliament, down to the end of June, 
which was practically the close of the 
session, I may say that, without any 
exception, the whole business of Parlia¬ 
ment, so far as the action of the two 
great parties who contend for power and 
place in the House was concerned—the 
whole attention of the House was given 
to the question of Sleswig-Holstein. I 
am not going into the history of that 
most complicated of all questions further 
than this : In 1852, by the mischievous 
activity of our Foreign-office, seven di¬ 
plomatists were brought round a green 
table in London to settle the destinies of 
a million of people in the two provinces 
of Sleswig and Holstein, without the 
slightest reference to the wants and 
wishes or the tendencies or the interests 
of that people. The preamble of the 


treaty which was there and then agreed 
to stated that what those seven diploma¬ 
tists were going to do was to maintain 
the integrity of the Danish monarchy, 
and to sustain the balance of power in 
Europe. Kings, emperors, princes were 
represented at that meeting, but the 
people had not the slightest voice or 
right in the matter. They settled the 
treaty, the object of which was to draw 
closer the bonds between those two 
provinces and Denmark. The tendency 
of the great majority of the people of 
those provinces—about a million of them 
altogether—was altogether in the direc¬ 
tion of Germany. From that time to 
this year the treaty was followed by con 
stant agitation and discord ; two wars 
have sprung out of it, and it has ended 
in the treaty being torn to pieces by two 
of the Governments who were prominent 
parties to the treaty. That is the history 
(I don’t intend to go further into it), or 
a summary of the whole proceeding. 

Now, during the whole of last session 
the time of the House of Commons, as 
I have said, was occupied upon that 
question. If you will take those volumes 
of Hansard which give the report of our 
proceedings in the last Parliament, and 
turn to the index under the head of 
Sleswig-Holstein, or under the head of 
Denmark or Gennany, you will find 
there, page after page, such questions as 
these put to the Government :—‘When 
will the blue books be laid upon the 
table ? ’ ‘ When will the conference be 

called together ? ’ ‘ When will the pro¬ 
tocols be published ? ’ and ‘ When will 
the protocols be laid before Parliament? ’ 
In this way the two great parties occu¬ 
pied the whole of the last session, because, 
when they were not talking upon this 
subject, they made the want of the 
papers or the want of the decision of 
this conference or the protocols an excuse 
for doing nothing else. Now, we had 
great debates in the House, and you will 
find some of the most prominent among 
our Members of the House of Commons 
—men, I mean, who wage the great 
party battles in the House — hardly 
opening their lips upon anything else 





1864. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


481 


but Sleswig-Holstein. And in the House 
of Lords they were still more animated. 
I have observed, that if ever there is any¬ 
thing connected with an exciting foreign 
topic, anything that is likely to lead to an 
excuse for military or naval expeditions, 
and public expenditure, the House of 
Lords becomes more excited than even 
the House of Commons ; but you never 
see the Lords lose their calmness and 
self-possession upon any domestic ques¬ 
tion. 

Now, there was one noble Peer, who 
spoke repeatedly on this question, who 
seems to me to be peculiarly framed for 
illustrating the fact, that a man may 
have great oratorical gifts and be quite 
destitute of common sense or ordinary 
judgment. That noble Lord, in the 
early part of the session, in a speech 
delivered upon this question, assailed 
the Queen—he attacked her Majesty for 
having influenced her Ministers in the 
interests of Germany. But this country 
is not a republic. The Queen, so long 
as she accepts a Prime Minister dictated 
to her by the House of Commons, has 
no political power, and, therefore, can 
have no political responsibility. That 
our present Sovereign accepts her Prime 
Minister for that reason, and no other, 
I think we have pretty good reason to 
know. But what shall we say of the 
chivalrous assembly which allowed a 
person to be assailed in her absence— 
the only person in the country who is 
defenceless, and that person a lady; for, 
with the exception of Lord Russell, who 
spoke in defence of himself rather than 
of the Crown, there was no one who 
rose to rebuke that noble Lord—the man 
that assailed his Sovereign ? Later on 
in the session, we heard more of the 
noble Lord, who claims the merit of 
having involved us in the Crimean war, 
and who has taken the lead in advocating 
all our fortifications and every abomina¬ 
tion of modern times. Having begun 
the session by attacking the Sovereign, 
it was only, perhaps, consistent that he 
should end it by vituperating the people. 
He said in July, ‘I appealed to the 
higher and nobler feelings of Parliament 


and of the nation, believing, as I did, 
that a course which was dictated by 
generosity was also recommended by 
policy. Others, with more success, 
appealed to more common things—to 
love of ease, to love of repose, to love 
of quiet, but above all to love of 
money, which has now become the 
engrossing passion of the people of this 
country.’ Now, if I were going to call 
a witness to prove that the English 
people are in pecuniary affairs so chival¬ 
rously generous, almost so foolishly 
generous, that they can give an annual 
allowance to an individual who has 
certainly no moral claim upon them, who 
would in no other country be recognised 
to have a legal claim to an allowance 
which actually amounts to 7,700/. a year 
for life—the individual I would call as 
my evidence would be this very peer, 
the Earl of Ellenborough. 

That to which I wish to call the 
attention of this room, and of those who 
will see what we are here saying, is what 
followed at the close of those debates. 
The newspapers that were in the interest 
of the Government were harping in 
favour of war to the last moment in 
large leading articles. Some announced 
the very number of the regiments, the 
names of the colonels, the names of the 
ships, and the commanders that would 
be sent to fight this battle for Denmark. 
In the House of Commons there was a 
general opinion that there was a great 
struggle going on in the Cabinet as to 
whether we should declare war against 
Germany. At the end of June the Prime 
Minister annnounced that he was going 
to produce the protocols, and to state 
the decision of the Government upon 
the question. He gave a week’s notice 
of this intention, and then I witnessed 
what has convinced me that we have 
achieved a revolution in our foreign 
policy. The whippers-in—you know 
what I mean—those on each side of the 
House who undertake to take stock of 
the number and the opinions of their 
followers—the whippers-in during the 
week were taking soundings of the 
inclination of Members of the House of 
31 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 


482 

Commons. And then came up from the 
country such a manifestation of opinion 
against war, that day after day during 
that eventful week Member after Member 
from the largest constituencies went to 
those who acted for the Government in 
Parliament and told them distinctly that 
they would not allow war on airy such 
matters as Sleswig and Holstein. Then 
came surging up from all the great seats 
and centres of manufacturing and com¬ 
mercial activity one unanimous veto 
against war for this matter of Sleswig 
and Holstein. The conversation that 
passed in those gossiping purlieus of the 
House of Commons—the library, the 
tea-room, the smoking-room, and the 
rest—was most interesting and striking. 
‘ Why, ’ a man representing a great 
constituency would be asked,—‘ How is 
it that the newspapers are writing for 
war ? ’ The newspapers write for war, 
because the newspapers in London that 
are in the interest of the Government 
have been giving out in leading articles 
that there was to be war. But they only 
express their own opinions, and not the 
opinions heard on ’Change. By the end 
of the week preceding the speech made 
by the Prime Minister, when he laid the 
protocols of the Convention upon the 
table, and gave the decision of the 
Government upon the policy they would 
pursue, there came up such an expression 
and manifestation of opinion, that I was 
satisfied no Government, whatever the 
press said, whatever was the opinion in 
the Cabinet at the time, could get us into 
war whilst the Parliament was sitting. 
And when the subsequent debate came 
on, and I spoke upon the subject, I chal¬ 
lenged the House of Commons to tell me 
if I was speaking incorrectly, when I 
said there were not five men in the 
House of Commons who would vote for 
war on any matter connected with that 
question. Nobody contradicted me. 

Well, but the feeling out of doors in 
London was one of intense anxiety. I 
never saw the Llouse of Commons—not 
even in the time of the Corn-laws—so 
mobbed by what I remember a Member 
called a middle-class mob, as it was on 


the night when Lord Palmerston came 
to make that final declaration of the de¬ 
cision of the Government on that occa¬ 
sion. It was evident that the middle 
classes of London thought that the ques¬ 
tion of peace or war was hanging in the 
balance, and they seemed rather appre¬ 
hensive than otherwise that war would 
be the decision of the Government. 

Well, this places the Parliament and 
the Government —and, to some extent, 
the nation represented—in a somewhat 
ignominious position. And the natural 
solution, in a case like that, in our con¬ 
stitutional form of government, is this, 
—the nation must find some vicarious 
sufferer, who shall be made to pay the 
penalty of this national blunder. The 
Opposition in the House of Commons 
is the proper mechanism by which this 
necessary constitutional process should 
be carried out. In ancient times, you 
know, a Minister that had got the 
country into a mess would have had his 
head cut off. Now he is decapitated in 
another way. He is sent away from 
Downing-Street into the cold shade of 
the Opposition, on the left-hand side of 
the Speaker. But on this occasion the 
Opposition brought forward a motion 
condemnatory of the Government, which 
the Opposition had no right to bring 
forward, because the whole proceedings 
of Parliament during the session showed 
that the Opposition was far more to 
blame for the delusion that had been 
practised upon the country than the 
Government itself. The Opposition 
was constantly stimulating the Govern¬ 
ment to do something, or making them 
responsible for not doing something, and 
putting grave questions to them, keeping 
their countenances while they did so, 
and not leading us to suppose it was all 
a joke; and, therefore, when they had 
been parties to this waste of the session, 
on the ground that they thought the 
Government was responsible for every¬ 
thing done that was being done about 
Sleswig-Holstein, it was not becoming 
in them to take the course they did, for 
they could not very logically or consist¬ 
ently bring forward a motion condemn 



1864. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


ing the Government for what had been 
done. Mr. Kinglake, who had never 
been in favour of the proceedings in re¬ 
gard to the Sleswig-Holstein affair, sub¬ 
stituted a clause or passage in the reso¬ 
lution, which did not either absolve the 
Government or condemn them, but it 
merely expressed the satisfaction that we 
had escaped war, and there the matter 
ended. 

Well, but now let me tell the solid, 
substantial manufacturing and com¬ 
mercial capitalists of this country, that 
this is not a very honourable position in 
which to be left. The Government was 
allowed to go on and commit them— 
commit them as far as a Government 
can do, in backing up and encouraging 
a small Power to fight with a big one. 
It was very much like a man taking a 
little fellow and backing him for a 
prize-fight. He ‘draws the scratch,’ as 
they say, across where his toe is to come 
to, and tells him to stand up to the 
mark, advises him how to train himself, 
takes him under his charge, and then, 
just at the moment when he comes to 
the place, he moves off and leaves him. 

Now, that is the position in which we 
are left as a nation by what was done 
last session about Sleswig-Holstein. 
We were caricatured in every country 
in Europe. I myself saw German and 
French caricatures immediately after¬ 
wards. There was a French caricature 
representing Britannia with a cotton 
nightcap on; there was a German 
caricature representing the British lion 
running off as hard as ever he could, 
with a hare running after him. This 
is not a satisfactory state of things, 
because I maintain that to a certain 
extent we deserved all that;—that is, 
we did deserve it, unless we show that 
we did not run away on that occasion, 
just because it did not suit us to fight, 
and unless we intend to adopt a different 
principle in our foreign policy, and say 
that other countries must not expect us 
to fight, except for our own business. 

The manufacturing and commercial 
interests of the country were in a state 
of almost unparalleled expansion. They 


483 

had entered into vast engagements, ex¬ 
pecting that they would be realised and 
fulfilled in a time of peace; both capital¬ 
ists and labourers felt that if war had 
arisen just then, it would have produced 
enormous calamities, such as no nation 
ought ever to bring upon itself, unless 
in defence of its own vital interest and 
honour. But all that ought to have 
been foreseen and anticipated, if not by 
your Governments, which are living in 
the traditions of fifty years ago, by an 
active-minded public spirit on the part 
of your people. You cannot separate 
yourselves from the honour or dishonour 
of your Government, or from the acts 
of those Cabinets and legislators whom 
you allow to act on your behalf and in 
your name. 

I’ll tell you what appears to me to be 
the result of that week’s debate on the 
Sleswig-Holstein question. Both sides 
felt that they were parties to such a 
ridiculous fiasco, and were in such an 
ignominious plight, that as the repre¬ 
sentatives of this great nation they had 
so compromised you, that there was a 
general disposition to take the pledge of 
non-intervention. But you know when 
people have got a headache after a de¬ 
bauch, they sometimes take the pledge 
to be teetotallers for life, but they do 
not keep it. Now, what I want to do 
is to prevent a recurrence of that dis¬ 
graceful proceeding which wasted you 
the last session of Parliament, and ended 
by making you as a nation, as far as a 
Cabinet can make you, ridiculous. 

I think we had made some progress, 
through the general declarations of 
sentiment in the House of Commons 
from leading men of all sides. But 
what did I hear ? What do I see ? I 
see the report of a speech made by an 
honourable and learned Gentleman to 
a constituency whose good voices and 
support he is canvassing for the next 
election—a manufacturing borough that 
shall be nameless, further than that it is 
on the banks of the Roche. I read a 
speech in which this hon. and learned 
Gentleman, addressing this manufactur¬ 
ing boroueh, and received with—with 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 


♦§4 

immense applause—in which he has a 
long programme of foreign policy, in 
pursuance of which, if it is to be carried 
out and adopted by our manufacturing 
community, I think we ought to reckon 
upon being at war every year of our 
lives ; and instead of spending—as we 
do now, unfortunately — 25,000,000/. 
upon our public services, we ought to 
begin by spending at least 50,000,000/. 
Amongst other things this honourable 
and learned Gentleman proposed we 
should do is this : we should maintain 
our armaments on a due scale, in order 
to prevent France from swallowing up 
Germany. 

Well, now, I can only say, for my 
part, if the French were to perform such 
a feat as that, they would suffer so terri¬ 
bly from indigestion, after swallowing 
those forty millions of uncomfortable 
Teutons, that I think they would be ob¬ 
jects of pity rather than terror ever after¬ 
wards. Really, you know, when men 
aspiring to be statesmen come to talk ex¬ 
actly as if they had taken passages from 
‘ Baron Munchausen ’ or ‘ Gulliver’s 
Travels,’ how can we possibly say that 
we have made any great progress ? If 
such sentiments as those can be applauded 
in a manufacturing borough on the banks 
of the Roche, wha£ must we expectto hear 
in agricultural districts in the neighbour¬ 
hood of Midhurst ? 

There has been a speech lately made 
by my right hon. Friend, Mr. Bouverie, 
at Kilmarnock, and there seemed to be 
some baillies, who are generally rather 
acute folks, on the platform with him, in 
which he gave utterance to some opinions 
which rather tended to show that, in spite 
of what was done in the last session of 
Parliament, we shall have to do with 
this foreign policy and this non-interven¬ 
tion just what we did with the Corn 
question—reiterate and reiterate, and 
repeat and repeat, until that comes to 
pass which O’Connell used to say to me, 

‘ I always go on repeating until I find 
what I have been saying coming back 
to me in echoes from other people.’ Now 
my friend, Mr. Bouverie, talks in favour 
of a foreign policy which should be 


founded upon a benevolent, sentimental 
principle—that is, that we shall do what 
is right, true, and just to all the world. 
Well, now, I think, as a corporate body 
—as a political community—if we can 
manage to do what is right, and true, 
and just to each other—if we can man¬ 
age to carry out that at home, it will be 
about as much as we can do. I do not 
think I am responsible for seeing right 
and truth and justice carried out all over 
the world, I think, if we had that 
responsibility, Providence would have in¬ 
vested us with more power than He has. 
I don’t think we can do it, and there s 
an end of it. But my friend talks as 
though at some time or other it was the 
practice in this country to carry out a 
sentimental policy ; and he carried us 
back, first of all, to the times of Queen 
Elizabeth. He says that she was a Sov¬ 
ereign who did what was right and true 
and just, and in the interest of Protest¬ 
antism, all over the Continent of Europe. 
Now, I think he could not have made 
a more unhappy selection than that 
example he has given ; for if ever there 
was a hard-headed and not a soft-hearted 
Sovereign it was she ; if there ever was 
a place where there was little of that 
romantic sentiment of going abroad to 
do right and justice to other people, I 
think it was in that Tudor breast of our 
‘ Good Queen Bess,’ as we call her. 
Why, when I read Motley’s ‘ History of 
the Rise of the Dutch Republic ’—an 
admirable book which everybody should 
read—when I read the history of the 
Netherlands, and when I see how that 
struggling community, with their whole 
country desolated by Spanish troops, 
and every town lighted up daily with 
the fires of persecution,—when I see the 
accounts of what passed when the envoys 
came to Queen Elizabeth and asked for 
aid, how she is huckstering for money 
while they are begging for help to their 
religion,—I declare that, with all my 
principles of non-intervention, I am al¬ 
most ashamed of old Queen Bess. And 
then there were Burleigh, Walsingham, 
and the rest, who were, if possible, 
harder and more difficult to deal with 




FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


1864, 

than their mistress. Why, they carried 
out in its unvarnished selfishness a 
national British policy; they had no 
other idea of a policy but a national 
British policy, and they carried it out 
with a degree of selfishness amounting 
to downright avarice. 

Mr. Bouverie next quotes Chatham. 
Do you suppose that Chatham was run¬ 
ning about the world protecting and 
looking after other people’s affairs ? 
Why, he went abroad in the spirit of a 
commercial traveller more than any 
Minister we ever had. Just step into the 
Guildhall in the metropolis, and read 
the inscription on the monument erected 
by the City of London to Lord Chatham. 
It is stated to be ‘as a recognition ’—I 
give you the words—‘of the benefits 
which the City of London received by 
her ample share in the public prosperity 
and then they go on to describe by what 
means this great man had made them so 
prosperous, and they say—I give you 
again the very words : ‘ By conquests 
made by arms and generosity in every 
part of the globe, and by commerce for 
the first time united with and made to 
flourish by war.’ Well, they were living 
under another dispensation to ours. At 
that time, Lord Chatham thought, that 
by making war upon France and seizing 
the Canadas, he was bringing custom to 
the English merchants and manufacturers, 
and he publicly declared that he made 
those conquests for the very purpose of 
giving a monopoly of those conquered 
markets to Englishmen at home ; and 
he said he would not allow the colonists 
to manufacture a horseshoe for them¬ 
selves. 

Well, that was the old dispensation, 
when people believed that the only way 
to prosper in trade was by establishing a 
monopoly, and that blood and violence 
would lead to profit. We know differ¬ 
ently. We know that that is no longer 
necessary, and that it is no longer pos¬ 
sible. Now, if I take Chatham’s great 
son; if I take the second Pitt, when he 
entered upon wars, he immediately be¬ 
gan the conquest of colonies. When he 
entered upon war with France in i 793 j 


48S 

and for three or four years afterwards, 
our navy was employed in little else than 
seizing colonies, the islands of the West 
Indies, &c., whether they belonged to 
France, Holland, or Denmark, or other 
nations, and he believed by that means 
he could make war profitable. We know 
that is no longer possible. We know it, 
and I thank God we live in a time when 
it is impossible for Englishmen ever to 
make a war profitable. Now, what we 
want in statesmanship is this—that we 
should understand what are the interests 
of our days, with our better lights and 
knowledge, and not be guided by maxims 
and rales which appertain to a totally 
different state of things. For no states¬ 
man ever was great unless he was carry 
ing out a policy that was suited to the 
time in which he lived, and in which he 
wrought up to the highest lights of the 
age in which he flourished. That is the 
only way in which a statesman can ever 
distinguish himself; and I have no hesit¬ 
ation in saying, that any modern states¬ 
man who is trusting for fame or for 
future honour to anything he has been 
doing in foreign policy for the last 
twenty or thirty years, is most miserably 
mistaken, and that he will be forgotten 
or only remembered as an example to 
be avoided within two years after his 
death. 

Now, I am going to touch upon a 
very delicate question. It is not enough 
that our Government should not interfere 
in foreign questions; it is not enough 
that our Government should not lecture 
and talk to foreign countries about what 
policy they should pursue. There is 
something more required. Englishmen, 
through theirpublic speakers and through 
their press, must learn to treat foreign 
questions in a different spirit to what 
they have done. And they must learn 
to do it as a point of honour towards 
foreign countries as well as a matter of 
self-respect which is due to themselves. 
You will mislead foreign countries by 
demonstrations of opinion in this country 
which are not to be followed by acts. 
Instead of benefiting a country, instead 
of benefiting a people abroad, you are 



4.86 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 


very often injuring them with the very 
best possible intention. 

Of all the public men who have been 
prominently engaged in politics, pro¬ 
bably there are none who, so much as 
my friend Mr. Bright and myself, have 
always avoided public demonstrations 
in favour of some nationality or some 
people abroad. Nothing would have 
been cheaper from time to time than for 
us to get immense applause and popu¬ 
larity by going down to the Guildhall or 
somewhere else, to attend a meeting and 
make a flaming and declamatory speech 
about the Poles, or Hungarians, or some 
people else a thousand miles away. But 
I have always felt that in doing that we 
were very likely to do a great deal of 
harm to the persons with whom we sym¬ 
pathised. I hope that nobody will sup¬ 
pose that my friend Mr. Bright, and 
myself, and those of the Free-trade 
school who have acted with us, have 
less sympathy for other people abroad 
than these gentlemen who come either 
to speak at public meetings, or to write 
in the papers in favour of some foreign 
nationality. I maintain that a man is 
best doing his duty at home in striving 
to extend the sphere of liberty—commer¬ 
cial, literary, political, religious, and in 
all directions ; for if he is working for 
liberty at home, he is working for the 
advancement of the principles of liberty 
all over the world. See what mischief 
has been done. I have no hesitation in 
saying—and I speak with the authority 
of persons who have been parties inter¬ 
ested and who have been themselves 
victims of that which was done in Paris 
and in London last year upon the subject 
of Poland, which has led thousands of 
the generous youth of Poland to prema¬ 
ture graves, and sent thousands more 
into Siberian exile. The manifestations 
and the instigations in London and Paris 
incapacitated that unhappy insurrection 
—if it can be called by the name of an 
insurrection—in Poland last year. It 
never had a chance from the beginning. 

I never like to speak disrespectfully of 
any movement of the kind—there are 
always, God knows, plenty to decry | 


those who have failed—but the insur¬ 
rection never had the slightest chance. 
The mass of the people never were with 
it; the insurgents were a few generous 
enthusiasts, always young men. Out of 
a population asserted to be many mil¬ 
lions, and said to be interested in this 
revolt, you never saw more, even by the 
most favourable reports, than 2,000 or 
3,000 engaged in some guerilla warfare 
at a time. 

Now, however, I hear from the very 
best authority, that the class of nobles 
and proprietors in Poland from whom all 
the previous efforts at national emancipa¬ 
tion have sprung, have been practically 
ruined, if not exterminated, by this last 
abortive effort; and they themselves— 
many of the most intelligent men you see 
here or in France—tell you it is futile to 
expect another effort from that same 
class; that God, in His own good time, 
may probably bring up a class of peasant 
proprietors—the serfs are now made 
peasant proprietors—and at some future 
time, either from religious impulse or 
motives of patriotism, that this more 
numerous class may take the field; but 
that the class that has always hitherto 
moved is practically hors de combat. 
There was a meeting held in the London 
Guildhall in favour of that insurrection. 
There were present Members of Parlia¬ 
ment and noble Lords; and the Lord 
Mayor was in the chair. I, who have 
travelled in those very countries, know 
what vast and exaggerated ideas are 
attached to a political meeting held in the 
London Guildhall, with the Lord Mayor, 
Members of Parliament, and Peers pre¬ 
sent. You may say that by a public 
meeting like that you only meant moral 
support and moral force ; but you cannot 
persuade the poor people abroad but 
that other consequences would follow a 
meeting like that, and that England 
would give material aid to this revolu¬ 
tion. So of Sleswig-Holstein. There 
is no doubt in the world that England 
and her Government encouraged that 
small country of Denmark to hopeless 
resistance by the false expectation excited 
from the first thatwe should gotoitshelp. 





1864. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


But that is not the only mischief we 
do. The moment another nation appears 
in the field you excite far more resent¬ 
ment, and you stimulate to far greater 
efforts, the Government which is en¬ 
gaged in putting down an insurrection. I 
have no hesitation in saying that the 
manifestations which came from England 
and France respecting Poland, did more 
than anything else could have done to 
consolidate and unite the power of the 
Russian empire just at the time when it 
was in danger of being thrown into dis¬ 
cord and confusion by the emancipation 
of the serfs. Directly France and Eng¬ 
land began to address their despatches to 
the Russian Government, the Russian 
Government made an appeal to their 
own people, not so much against the 
Poles, against whom there was no great 
resentment, but to resist the attempt of 
the Western Powers to dictate to Russia; 
and Russia was enabled by that appeal, 
not only to call out the patriotic efforts 
of her own people, but to incur expenses 
in preparing for a war with Poland, such 
as she never would have ventured on 
had it not been for the assumption that 
she might have gone to war with France 
and England. A friend of mine who 
was travelling in Russia was told on 
very good authority that the Russian 
Government spent three or four millions 
of money in consequence of what were 
understood to be threats held out by 
France and England, and that was of 
course available to put down the Poles. 
These are considerations that ought to 
make the best-intentioned in the world 
pause before they join in any demonstra¬ 
tions of this kind. You must not only 
discourage your Government from taking 
proceedings, but you must do nothing 
that is calculated either to mislead the 
people abroad, or to stimulate the Go¬ 
vernments abroad to increased efforts 
against their own populations. Now, 
you know, if I would only flatter you, 
instead of talking these home truths, I 
really believe I might be Prime Minister. 
If I would get up and say you are the 
greatest, the wisest, the best, the happi¬ 
est people in the world, and keep on 


487 

repeating that, I don’t doubt but what 
I might be Prime Minister. I have seen 
Prime Ministers made in my experience 
precisely by that process. But it has 
always been my custom to talk irrespec¬ 
tive of momentary popularity. You 
know I always get afterwards, with ex¬ 
orbitant and usurious interest, far more 
than I deserve. 

Now, we English people have a pecu¬ 
liar way of dealing with foreign questions. 
We are the only people in the world that 
ever make of a foreign topic a matter of 
passionate, earnest, and internal politics. 
You never see in France, or in America, 
or in Germany, newspapers taking up 
foreign questions, and attacking one 
another because they are not of the same 
opinion. But this is the commonest 
thing in the world in England. I have 
had a message from some hon. Gentle¬ 
man, living in this town, to say that he 
would not vote for me again, because I 
did not entertain the same opinions that 
he did about the American war. Well, 
I said in reply, that I did not profess at 
all to dictate to other people what opin¬ 
ions they should have upon a matter of 
such pure abstraction as that, but I 
wanted to know who made him my 
political Pope. Now, when we come 
to have a proper and due opinion of how 
little we can really do to effect any 
change abroad, if we act wisely we shall 
change our tone with regard to foreign 
policy, and we shall discuss—if we dis¬ 
cuss those questions at all, which every¬ 
body will do who is intelligent, and lives 
in an age of electric telegraphs—we shall 
discuss these questions calmly and tem ¬ 
perately, as I intend to do now just for 
one or two minutes, upon the subject of 
the American question. 

I am exceedingly tolerant with every¬ 
body that differs from me about this 
dreadful civil war in America. I have 
intimate friends—some of my dearest 
friends—who differ totally from me on 
this question. It never drives me from 
their doors, or prevents my associating 
with them in just the same way as if our 
opinions coincided. Nay, more, I have 
always said that, while I believe there 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 


4 <j >8 

are many who take a sinister view of that 
question in America, there are, on the 
other hand, a great many people who 
have taken up the side of the South 
because they are the weaker party— 
because they are the insurgent party; 
and also because, looking at the map 
and looking at the extent of the coun¬ 
try, they don’t believe it possible that 
the North can succeed in subduing them, 
and that therefore it is a hopeless strug¬ 
gle, which ought to be put an end to by 
separation. Well, all that is very fair 
and reasonable, and ought to be regarded 
with perfect tolerance; but at the same 
time I repeat there are parties in this 
country, and they have not had the sense 
to conceal their motives, who want to 
see America humbled. They have not 
concealed their sentiments, because we 
had an explosion in the House of Com¬ 
mons. ‘ That republican bubble has 
burst.’ They could not contain them¬ 
selves when the war broke out. 

I’ll tell you what my opinion is with 
regard to Republicanism. I think we 
may have every advantage in this country 
with an hereditary monarchy that we 
might have by electing a president every 
four or six years. That is my theory. 
But, at the same time, I see a people 
raising up a Government upon a standard 
very far in advance of anything that was 
ever known in the world,—a people who 
say, ‘ We rule ourselves by pure reason ; 
there shall be no religious establishment 
to guide us or control us ; there shall 
be no born rank of any kind, but every 
honour held, every promotion enjoyed, 
shall spring from the people, and by selec¬ 
tion ; we maintain that we can govern 
ourselves without the institution of any 
hierarchy or privileged body whatever. ’ 
Well, every one will admit that at all 
events that programme is founded upon 
an elevated conception of what humanity 
is capable of. It may be a mistaken 
estimate,—it may be too soon to form so 
high an estimate,—it may fail; but don’t 
ask me, who always consult to the best 
of my ability the interests of the great 
masses of my kind—don’t ask me to 
wish that it may fail—don’t ask me to 


exult if it seems to fail, because I utterly 
repudiate the possibility of my partaking 
in any such sentiment as that. 

We have lately seen that country 
brought into just such a stress and diffi¬ 
culty as we might be thrown into to¬ 
morrow. We are governing India. The 
world never saw such a risk as we run, 
with 130 or 140 millions near the anti¬ 
podes, ruling them for the sake of their 
custom and nothing else. I defy you to 
show that the nation has any interest 
whatever in that country, except by the 
commerce we carry on there. I say that 
is a perilous adventure, quite unconnected 
with Free Trade, wholly out of joint with 
the recent tendency of things, which is 
in favour of nationality and not of do¬ 
mination. You might have something 
happen to you there at any time. You 
might have the same in Ireland. 

Is it Conservatism to jump upand exult 
immediately this great Republic falls into 
the throes of civil war, from no fault 
of any one who is now living; but, if you 
may trace it back to the first cause, rather 
from the fault of the British nation and 
the British Court some 150 years ago ? 
I ask, is it Conservatism in this country, 
or amongst the ruling classes in Europe, 
that they should have jumped so hastily 
into a kind of what I must call partisan¬ 
ship with this insurrection ? Let us see 
what it is. Here you have a great poli¬ 
tical disruption, in which the active 
parties, who are very able men—I know 
the leaders on both sides—were aware 
of what they were doing; they knew 
the tremendous consequences they were 
going to entail upon this cotton region, 
for instance. They meditated a disrup¬ 
tion, by which they were going to throw 
into convulsion this great and populous 
district; and many a man here present 
is wearing a paler brow than he would 
have worn but for this civil war. What, 
then, do they do to justify themselves in 
the eyes of foreign States, that our states¬ 
men and the ruling classes on the Conti¬ 
nent should spring forward to recognise 
them immediately as belligerents ? 

Now, in all other great political con¬ 
vulsions that I remember, the parties 




FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


1864. 

who have sought to create a disruption 
which tends to shake a community, and 
by that means to cause loss and incon¬ 
venience abroad, have always put out, 
in decent respect to the opinion of the 
world, a programme of their grievances. 
Where is it here? Take the case of 
our civil war, when Cromwell and his 
party, who, I always think, followed on 
the heels of much better men, committed 
then acts of greater violence and greater 
tyranny than the Stuarts whom they had 
put down, and left very little trace of 
good on their own account to posterity. 
But what was done when Cromwell and 
his party and tire Parliament deposed 
and decapitated Charles I.—a crime that 
has been followed by a reaction, as all 
crimes of blood are, down even to our 
own time ? The Parliament put out a 
programme of their grievances ; they 
published it in three languages ; they 
circulated it all through Europe, stating 
to the whole world why they had deposed 
a king, and why they had established a 
commonwealth. What happened when 
James II. fled, and William III was 
invited over? Read the Declaration 
of Rights with which the Parliament met 
William III.; there was on one hand a 
narrative of the grievances they had 
against James II.; there was a pro¬ 
gramme, and a compact of the conditions 
they required from the succeeding king ; 
there was a justification of what they did. 
What did the Americans do when they 
declared their independence in 1776? 
They put forward a declaration of griev¬ 
ances, and no Englishman can now read 
it but will admit that they were justified 
in that rebellion, and in the separation 
from the mother country. But here you 
have a civil war of far more gigantic 
proportions than those I have alluded to 
—than them all put together ; where the 
parties knew and calculated upon their 
losses as a means of success—knew they 
were going to convulse a peaceful district 
by their insurrection. Have they ever 
put forth a programme? Have they 
ever stated a grievance ? I know the 
men, and I know no one more competent 
to write such a programme than Mr. 


489 

Jefferson Davis. He could do it as well 
as Thomas Jefferson did the Declaration 
of Independence in 1776. But there is 
none. And why is there none? Because 
they had but one grievance. They 
wanted to consolidate, perpetuate, and 
extend slavery. But, instead of that, 
what do they constantly say, these emi¬ 
nent men—eminent, I mean, for their 
intellect—who could so well state their 
case, if they dared to state the truth? 

‘ Leave us alone ; all we want is to be 
left alone. ’ And that is a reason that the 
Conservative Governments of Europe, 
and so large a section of the upper 
middle-class of England, and almost the 
whole aristocracy, have accepted as a 
sufficient ground on which to back this 
insurrection. How would they have 
liked it, if, when Essex and Kent had 
been beaten on the Corn-law question 
(and we know Essex gave a united and 
unanimous vote against us), Kent and 
Essex had chosen to set up themselves 
as an East Anglia right across the mouth 
of the Thames, as the secessionists have 
done by Louisiana across the mouth of 
the Mississippi, and if, when we asked 
them why they did it, they should reply, 

‘ We want to be left alone ’ ? Can any 
Government be carried on if a portion 
of the territory, or a section of the people, 
can at any time secede when beaten at the 
polls in a peaceful election ? I again re¬ 
peat, where is the Conservatism amongst 
the governing class of this country ? I 
come to the conclusion that there is more 
Conservatism amongst the Democracy, 
after all. 

Now, we have heard news from Ame¬ 
rica lately which I confess has struck 
me as presenting to us one of the most 
sublime spectacles in the whole history 
of the world. You have twenty-three 
or twenty-four millions of people spread¬ 
ing over the territory of some thousands 
of square miles, exercising on one day 
the right of suffrage upon a question 
about which torrents of blood are flow¬ 
ing. You have seen the result of that 
peaceful election given without as much 
tumult as I have seen in the dirty little 
village of Caine, or the little town of 



400 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 23, 


Kidderminster. Well, I say that is a 
thing for humanity to be proud of, and 
not for any particular party to exult over, 
or for any party to scowl upon. A 
people that can do that, have given to 
the world a spectacle such as never was 
presented before by any other people. 
And what have they done ? They have 
decided, mind you, after three years of 
war, and after every other household 
almost has lost an inmate or a relative by 
war. The contest that arose was this : 
Gen. M'Clellan offers himself as a candi¬ 
date to put down the war and to restore 
the Union without making the abolition 
of slavery a condition of it. On the other 
side, Abraham Lincoln says, ‘ We will 
put down the war, and we will extirpate 
slavery.’ And, notwithstanding that 
the appeal was made to the whole people 
who have been suffering from this war, 
they have preferred, in the interest of 
humanity—for that can no longer be 
questioned now—you can no longer call 
it pride, it is the lofty motive of human¬ 
ity that has induced them to risk the 
longer continuance of the war rather than 
allow the degrading institution of slavery 
to continue. Well, now, let us have no 
more of the old talk about this not being 
a war to put down slavery. Everybody 
now admits, that whatever the issue of 
this struggle may be, slavery will be 
abolished by it, and the slaves will be 
emancipated. 

Now, with regard to the issue itself. 

I told you here two years ago, that I did 
not believe I should ever live to see two 
independent States on the Continent of 
North America. I have repeated it 
since, and I come to confirm that 
opinion, but with far more emphasis than 
I ever expressed before. I do not be¬ 
lieve that that country will, in our day, 
ever be separated, for I consider the 
geographical difficulties in the way of a 
separation to be absolutely insuperable. 
For instance, take the case of the Mis¬ 
sissippi River. There are 20,000 miles 
of navigable waters through that great 
western region that fall into the Gulf of 
Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi. 
In order that the United States might 


have the mouth of that river in their 
own keeping,—that they might, so to 
say, have the key of their own door in 
their own pocket,—they purchased, with 
the money of the whole Union, from the 
first Napoleon, the State of Louisiana 
for three millions sterling. And now, 
some two or three hundred thousand 
who have squatted there—some French, 
some Spanish, some Irish, some English, 
some Americans — have taken it into 
their heads that they will carry off this 
State of Louisiana, and put the mouth 
of that great river and the outlet of all 
these vast tributaries into the hands of a 
foreign State. I just now illustrated this 
question by a reference to Essex and 
Kent, and I say it would be far easier 
for Essex and Kent to carry off the 
mouth of the Thames and to set up an 
East Anglia, than it will be for Louisiana 
to carry off the mouth of the Mississippi 
and set itself up as an independent 
State, and for this reason :—in the case 
of the Thames there may be a popula¬ 
tion at some future time, perhaps, of ten 
millions of people interested in that 
question in the valley of the Thames, 
and there will be a few hundred miles 
of navigable waters ; in the case of the 
Mississippi River, there will be two 
hundred millions of people, the richest 
and most prosperous in the world—no 
doubt of that—living in that Mississippi 
valley; and therefore it makes it ten 
times impossible, if the word may be 
used, that they should ever allow the 
mouth of the Mississippi River to be 
blocked. And besides, they can prevent 
it almost with no expense ; a few gun¬ 
boats patrolling in the Mississippi will 
keep absolute possession of it; and if 
they could not in any other way capture 
Louisiana, why, they might cut the 
dykes—(as the Dutch did against their 
enemies the Spaniards)—above New 
Orleans, and drown the whole State of 
Louisiana. 

Now, I am speaking merely of motives 
and of forces ; I am not speaking my 
own opinion, not uttering my own wishes 
in the matter—I am only speaking of 
what you have to look to when you are 




1864. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


491 


estimating the probable future of this 
struggle. If you think that Mr. Jefferson 
Davis and his Southern Confederacy 
would like to have a slave empire merely 
confined to the cotton States—that he 
should not be allowed to extend his go¬ 
vernment across the Mississippi into 
Texas—why, he would not thank you 
for anything of the kind. What they are 
fighting for is to be allowed to carry 
their slaves not only across the Missis¬ 
sippi into Texas, but into new regions 
beyond it. And, therefore, when you 
tell them that they shall not have the 
Mississippi River, it is giving up the 
whole question on which their whole 
cause depends. I say that the chief diffi¬ 
culty, if it had been looked at by our 
ruling class, by many of those who write 
in the newspapers, lies in geographical 
causes, which these writers ought to 
have considered, for if they had done so 
they would not have arrived at the con¬ 
clusion they have as to the success of 
the Southern cause. 

I have spoken of the newspapers. 
There is a newspaper in London, which, 
I suppose, is read by almost everybody, 
and I have marvelled at the ignorance 
it has displayed on this question. In 
one leading article, a river of 580 miles 
internal navigation, to which the largest 
river in this country is a mere brook or 
rivulet, was made to run uphill a great 
number of miles into another river, and 
then these two rivers united, the waters 
of which are never blended at all, were 
made to flow into a third river, into which 
neither of them pours a drop of water. 
Now, I think there is a real danger in 
this ignorance of what I must call for 
want of a better term the ruling class of 
this country—in this total ignorance of 
everything relating to America. These 
people may get you into a difficulty 
from their ignorance, which it may cost 
you much of your national honour to 
escape from. If I were rich, I really 
think I would endow a professor’s chair 
at Oxford and Cambridge for teaching 
modern American geography and modern 
American history. I will undertake to 
say—and I speak it advisedly—I will 


take any undergraduate now at Oxford 
and Cambridge — there is a map of the 
United States there—and I will ask this 
young gentleman to walk up to that 
map and put his finger upon the city of 
Chicago, and I will undertake to say that 
he will not go within a thousand miles of 
it. And yet Chicago is a city of 150,000 
inhabitants, from which from one to 
two millions of our people are annually 
fed. These young gentlemen, I allow, 
know all about the geography of ancient 
Greece and Egypt. 

Now, I shall be pelted with a heap of 
Greek and Latin quotations for what I 
am going to say. But I think I have 
said it before; therefore I think all the 
severe things they can say to me they 
have said. When I was at Athens, I 
sallied out one summer morning to see 
the far-famed river, the Ilyssus, and, 
after walking for some hundred yards 
up what appeared to be the bed of a 
winter torrent, I came up to a number of 
Athenian laundresses, and I found they 
had dammed up this far-famed classic 
river, and that they were using every drop 
of water for their linen and such sanitary 
purposes. I say, why should not the 
young gentlemen who are taught all 
about the geography of the Ilyssus know 
something about the geography of the 
Mississippi, the Ohio, and the Missouri? 
There has been of late a good deal of 
talk about the advantages or disadvant¬ 
ages of classical education. I am a great 
advocate of culture of every kind; and 
I say, where you can find men who, in 
addition to profound classical learning, 
like Professor Goldwin Smith, or Pro¬ 
fessor Rogers, of Oxford, have a vast 
knowledge of modern affairs, and who, 
as well as scholars, are at the same time 
thinkers,—these are men I acknowledge 
to have a vast superiority over me, and 
I bow to those men with reverence for 
those superior advantages. But to bring 
young men from college with no know¬ 
ledge of the country where the great 
drama of modern political and national 
life is being worked out—who are totally 
ignorant of countries like America, but 
who, for good or for evil, are exercising 



493 


NOV. 23, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


and will exercise more influence in this 
country than any other persons,—to take 
young men, destitute of knowledge about 
countries like that—their geography, 
their modem history, their population, 
and their resources, and to place them 
in responsible positions in the Govern¬ 
ment of this country—I say it is imperil¬ 
ling your best interests, and every earnest 
remonstrance that can be made against 
such a state of education ought to be 
made by every public man who values 
the future welfare of his country. 

You all know my opinion with regard 
to the future of America. I want nothing 
done to enforce my opinions. I should 
never even have said so much as I have 
upon American affairs, if there had not 
been so much said upon the other side. 
I wanted to trim the scales, to prevent 
there being an undue preponderance in 
favour of the other side. I wanted no 
intervention, I wanted nothing but neu¬ 
trality : but if we are to have perfect 
neutrality on this subject, for Heaven’s 
sake let us try also to have a little temper 
in the discussion of those questions for 
which we are, happily, not at all re¬ 
sponsible. Take up the newspapers and 
see them assailing each other, or public 
men, because they have no particular 
views on foreign questions. It is sheer 
childishness, when you come to con¬ 
sider that we are not responsible for the 
facts. 

If any one attacks me for my political 
opinions on home questions, I recognise 
his perfect right to do it; the more the 
better. Every public man’s language, 
and his acts, and policy should be well 
sifted; but to quarrel with each other 
about a country over which we can exer¬ 
cise no influence whatever, seems to me 
the most absurd thing in the world. If 
we were a nation that never went to war, 
then as a nation we might with justice, 
perhaps, complain that America is shed¬ 
ding so much blood; but I am mute, I am 
silenced when I recollect that I have been 
protesting against the wars of England 
ever since I came into public life—war 
in India, China, Russia, New Zealand, 
Japan, and all over the world—but I 


never could succeed in this country in 
preventing bloodshed. We have a fresh 
war every year, upon an average, with 
some country or other, and therefore I 
am mute. I could not say to America, 

‘ Why do you carry on this civil war?’ 
Should I not be subject to the reply, 

‘ Take the beam out of your own eye 
before you take the mote out of ours ’ ? I 
should have some ground for using that 
language as compared with some other 
people; but I find those who have been 
the advocates of all these wars against 
which I have been protesting are now 
turning up the whites of their eyes, and 
exclaiming for all the world as if they 
had been Quakers from their birth. 

Now, gentlemen, I have done with 
foreign policy, and I have only spoken 
so much to-night upon these subjects in 
violation of my usual rule, because I say 
that last session was an exceptional one; 
and if I have spoken upon the subject of 
non-intervention, it is because I wish to 
have less to say about it in future, and 
that we may be able to talk upon home 
affairs without this eternal meddling 
abroad to distract our attention and pre¬ 
vent our doing anything for our own 
people. I am happy to give you, from 
a very orthodox source, what I consider 
to be very sound doctrine in few words 
with regard to our foreign policy. The 
Edinburgh Review of last month thus 
defines the views of foreign policy which 
have now been accepted by Parliament, 
and the majority of the nation, as to our 
relations with the Continental Powers of 
Europe, and here are the words of the 
orthodox Whig reviewer. It is not my 
language. It was my language some 
years ago, but I am very glad to disap¬ 
pear altogether now, and place before 
you the much more influential words of 
the Edinburgh reviewer :— 

' That this country should enter into no 
official discussion and no public engage¬ 
ments on affairs remotely concerning her¬ 
self ; that she will reserve her power and 
influence for British purposes; that she will 
not pronounce an opinion unless she is 
resolved to support it by action ; and that 
she will throw on other States the whole 



1864. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


493 


responsibility of acts affecting themselves 
more directly than they affect us.’ 

Now, that is unquestionably a wise and 
sound doctrine. The only wonder is 
that ever anybody should have had any 
opposite opinions to that, and that they 
should have now to pronounce it for the 
first time. That is taking the pledge, 
you know, after the headache in the 
House of Commons. I must say I am 
very glad indeed also to have the oppor¬ 
tunity of quoting the same orthodox 
publication on another most important 
question. The Reviewer speaks of the 
measures that still require to be carried 
out in England in our domestic policy, 
for which course we shall have time, when 
we give up meddling with everybody’s 
affairs on the face of the earth. Now, 
here are the Reviewer’s own words in 
speaking of the domestic reforms that 
await our attention :— 

‘ At home, we have still to apply to land 
and to labour that freedom which has 
worked such marvels in the case of capital 
and commerce.’ 

Bear in mind, that is not my language 
about free trade in land. But I say 
‘ Amen ’ to it. If I were five-and-twenty 
or thirty, instead of, unhappily, twice 
that number of years, I would take Adam 
Smith in hand—I would not go beyond 
him, I would have no politics in it—I 
would take Adam Smith in hand, and 
I would have a League for free trade in 
Land just as we had a League for free 
trade in Corn. You will find just the 
same authority in Adam Smith for the 
one as for the other ; and if it were only 
taken up as it must be taken up to suc¬ 
ceed, not as a political, revolutionary, 
Radical, Chartist notion, but taken up 
on politico-economic grounds, the agita¬ 
tion would be certain to succeed; and 
if you can apply free trade to land and 
to labour too—that is, by getting rid of 
those abominable restrictions in your 
parish settlements, and the like—then, 
I say, the men who do that will have 
done for England probably more than 
we have been able to do by making free 
trade in com. 


Now, all that has to be done. Really, 
the chief embarrassment one has in 
meeting one’s constituents once a year 
to talk over so many questions is that 
you cannot logically follow out any 
subject but that you are obliged to break 
off from one to another. As our eloquent 
friend, unhappily, cannot succeed me, 
you will excuse me if I take up ten 
minutes more of your time than I should 
otherwise have done. Besides the ques¬ 
tion of Reform in Parliament, which lies 
at the bottom of most things, there is 
something for next year which must be 
done, in the way of our finances; and 
it will be done very much as a corollary, 
as already showing the fruits that may 
be reaped from the adoption of our new 
foreign policy. You must needs see this 
reform, if you will only avow the principle 
that you are not going to fight for any¬ 
thing but your interests and honour— 
and by honour I mean, not the honour 
of the barrack-room—for I maintain that 
the honour of this great Christian country 
need never, with a wise Government, 
be dissociated from its interest. But if 
you will only admit that you will never 
fight for anything but a direct question 
of your own honour and interest, I defy 
you to keep up your present establish¬ 
ment, and spend twenty-five and odd 
millions a year on your army and navy. 
There is no pretence for that; and 
already I see from authoritative quarters 
that there is to be a reduction next year. 
I am glad of it; and I am glad of it very 
much indeed for the sake of Mr. Gladstone, 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. 
Gladstone is the best Chancellor of the 
Exchequer England ever had,—and I say 
that, knowing thathehas had amongst his 
predecessors William Pitt. But I am 
going to say that Mr. Gladstone has been 
the most extravagant Chancellor of the 
Exchequer we have ever had. He has 
been a master in the adjustment of the 
burdens of the country ; that is, he found 
the weight placed upon the animal in 
such a way as rendered it the most 
difficult to carry his burden. It was tied 
round his knees, it was fastened to his 
tail, it was hung over his eyes, it blinded 



454 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23 


him, and impeded him, and lamed him 
at every step. Now, Mr. Gladstone 
took the burdens off these limbs, and he 
placed them most ingeniously over the 
softest possible pad upon the animal’s 
shoulders. But the beast is carrying the 
burden still, and carrying a great deal 
more than it did before all this beautiful 
process was commenced. We never 
before had a Government that extracted 
from the people ten millions of income 
in a time of peace. People exclaim 
against the American expenditure. A 
friend of mine wrote to me the other 
day, and told me that the Americans 
were spending two millions of dollars a 
day; what did I think of it? Well, I 
said—I think it was rather more, but I 
took him at his own word—if you take 
into account the depreciation of the 
American currency, and at the present 
rate of exchange, the dollar there being 
worth 20 d ., or 2 s. here, that was as near 
as I could possibly calculate the amount 
Mr. Gladstone in a time of peace was 
drawing from this country. And, mind 
you, as long as the English people are 
given up to that comfortable compla¬ 
cency, that they can go abroad only to find 
out objects of pity, they will always be 
persuaded that they are very clever peo¬ 
ple, and are doing agreat deal better than 
other folks. Why have the Americans 
astonished everybody ? Why have they 
laughed to scorn the predictions of all 
your City magnates, all your authorities 
upon finance, who told them that they 
could not go on for six months in their 
war without coming to Europe for a loan? 
How is it, then, the Americans have so 
deceived and disappointed the whole of 
Europe ? I’ll tell you why. Because the 
Americans never spent—never allowed 
their Government to incur a war expend¬ 
iture in time of peace. That is the 
whole secret. They were spending from 
fifteen to seventeen millions sterling per 
annum for their Government, for a 
population about our own size, at the 
time the war broke out; and the saving 
and accumulation that they were thus 
making has enabled them to go through 
this terrific strain. You just take only 


ten millions of savings for forty years ; 
add ten millions every year to it for 
compound interest, and at the end you 
will see what a fabulous amount it will 
come to. You will hardly be able to 
calculate the amount. That is just what 
the Americans were doing. What are 
you doing here ? You are committed to 
a war expenditure in time of peace, and 
your people are discontented with the 
extravagant expenditure, and the conse¬ 
quence is, if you were to go into a war, 
you would certainly find yourselves 
comparatively crippled by your previous 
expenditure. 

I hope, therefore, that Mr. Gladstone 
will be enabled, for the next session, to 
make a large reduction in the actual 
expenditure. I do not want any more 
of this delusion about the reduction or 
diminution of particular taxes. I want 
to look at the whole amount of revenue 
the Government is getting from us. For 
instance, here is a very customary piece 
of deception: we are told how many 
Customs and Excise duties have been 
abolished, and how many have been 
reduced, during the last twenty years. 
Yes; but I look at the whole amount 
now paid, and I find that, this year, it 
will be about forty millions sterling more 
than ever we used to pay before these 
reductions began. Now, I say, the 
proper way to look at that is to see how 
the whole amount of the income from 
the taxpayer is reduced; and I hope that 
this next session will not pass without 
Mr. Gladstone doing justice to himself; 
because you must bear in mind that Mr. 
Gladstone has been telling us repeatedly 
that he considers the expenditure exces¬ 
sive. It is sailing very near the wind 
indeed for any Minister to attempt to 
justify himself in saying, ‘ I am spending 
more money than I think I ought to 
spend; and do you, the people of Eng¬ 
land, come and try to prevent it.’ But 
I am constrained to say that Mr. Glad¬ 
stone, by his immense services in other 
directions, is the very man who enables 
the Government to get this money. I 
am perfectly ready to admit that Mr. 
Gladstone has, by his skill in dealing 





IS64. 


FOREIGN POLICY. IX. 


with finance, justified himself, up to this 
time, in remaining in the Cabinet and 
doing what he has done. But I am sure 
he will perceive that he has nearly 
finished his career of manipulating the 
sources of our taxation. He has removed 
every protective duty; he has reduced 
most of the other duties. And though 
I am by no means prepared to say that 
other Chancellors of the Exchequer may 
not do a great deal more in giving us 
direct instead of indirect taxation, yet, 
as regards the question of protection, 
Mr. Gladstone has finished his work; 
and therefore any further services he 
must render us must be in the reduction 
of expenditure—in taxing us less. He 
must remember, too, what we have 
heard from the other side. Lord Stanley 
intimated, you know, not long ago, that 
he could not see his way to sixty mil¬ 
lions of expenditure. I think, when 
the Chancellor of the Exchequer sees his 
opponent on the other side—the most 
distinguished member of the Opposition 
—announcing sixty millions, if I were 
Mr. Gladstone I should hurry back to 
that amount as fast as I could, for fear 
of being tripped up by the other side, 
and I would recommend him to take 
advice from that quarter. He has de¬ 
clared the present expenditure to be 
profligate—I think ‘ profligate expend¬ 
iture ’ is the term he used—and I know 
Mr. Disraeli talked of bloated arma¬ 
ments ; so that we have the whole thing 
condemned all round. Mr. Gladstone 
makes an appeal to the British public. 
I do not know how the British public 
can interfere in the arrangement of his 
Budget in the House of Commons; but, 
as there is to be a general election next 
year, I advise him to appeal to the 
British public at the general election on 
the question of taxation as the way to 
give them a chance of expressing their 
opinion, and 1 am very much inclined 
to think that is the only way the British 
public can interfere in the matter. 

But I consider the House of Commons 
to be a great deal more extravagant than 
the Government. That is my experience. 

I once stated it in the House. Since I 


495 

have been in the House, we have voted 
upwards of five hundred millions sterling 
for the army and navy services ; and I 
never saw one item of a single shilling 
reduced in all that time; though I have 
constantly known items increased. Last 
session the Government proposed to save 
200,000/. by not calling out the yeomanry; 
but the country gentlemen went up, and 
compelled them to give the money. 
The House of Commons is more ex¬ 
travagant than the Government, and is 
always urging them to expenditure. 
But if Mr. Gladstone will invite the 
British public to speak in the only way 
in which they can exercise their voices, 
at the general election, I am quite sure 
they will support him, and not support 
any other Government that attempts to 
oppose him in the reduction of expend¬ 
iture. What is the obvious remedy for 
this state of the House of Commons ? 
We all know that the House of Com¬ 
mons wants an infusion of the popular 
element. I see before me middle-class 
men, and I see beyond the operatives. 
Now, you are told, and some of you 
persuade yourselves, that the middle- 
class govern the House of Commons. 
It is a great delusion. The middle class 
element is very small in the House of 
Commons, and it is getting less and less. 
We are becoming more and more a rich 
man’s club. That is just it. What you 
want is a greater infusion of the popular 
element, and you cannot have that unless 
you have an enlargement of the political 
rights of the people. And I would 
advise the middle class not to allow this 
to be dealt with as a working man’s 
question. The middle class themselves 
are interested in having a reform of Par¬ 
liament, in order that their influence 
should be felt there, for it is not much 
felt there now, I assure you; we are a 
very small ingredient. The world is not 
standing still, and you must not stand 
still. A friend of mine the other day said 
to me, * I will lay a wager that the blacks 
in America have votes before the English 
working-man.’ Well, now, I should 
not like to see that—I don’t think that 
that would be becoming in this country, 




496 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 23, 1864 


which has boasted of itself as being in 
the van of free nations. But of this I 
am quite sure—and I say it to the middle 
class here—you cannot with safety exclude 
the great mass of the working people 
from a participation in the suffrage ; for, 
recollect, this question never before got 
into the position it is in now. You have 
had several successive Governments in 
their Queen’s Speeches recommending a 
reform of Parliament with the view of 
increasing the number of votes in this 
country. But nothing is done, and the 
mass of the people feel that they are 
trifled with. There is nothing that breeds 
such a resentment in the great mass of 
the people—all history shows it—as a 
sense of having been betrayed. You 
will find in all history that the mass of 
the people are magnanimous and forgiv¬ 
ing for everything else but the conviction 
—sometimes erroneous—of having been 
betrayed. 

The working classes are very signifi¬ 
cantly silent upon the subject of the 
suffrage. That is something new; and 
if they did not move at all, I should say 
that that was an additional reason to the 
middle class why they ought to move in 
the matter; because times and circum¬ 
stances do come—they always turn up 
once in twenty or thirty years—when 
there must be an appeal to the whole 
mass of the community; when the power 
of the nation really falls into the hands 
of the mass of the people, as it always 
is virtually in their hands, whenever 
they choose to exercise it. Now, it is 
not desirable that you should leave the 
mass of the people with a grievance 
not a grievance of their own creating, a 
grievance for which they can convict you 
upon your own declarations. It is your 
Government, the middle class, it is your 
Sovereign, speaking through her Prime 
Minister, who dictate the public policy; 
it is they who have told the working 
people that they ought to have the vote, 


and who have trifled with them for ten 
or fifteen years, while nothing is done. 
I say there is danger in it; and the shape 
which the controversy is taking is, to 
my mind, very undesirable; it now takes 
the broad aspect of a question whether 
the working classes as a whole should 
be enfranchised, or whether they should 
not. But it never presented itself in that 
way before, because we all know that in 
olden times, in the times of the guilds, 
the working classes were represented in 
many forms. You had boroughs, with 
scot and lot suffrage; you had in the 
City of London, for instance, guilds 
where every man belonging to a certain 
business had a right to exercise his fran¬ 
chise as a freeman. And do you sup¬ 
pose, now, it is possible that, in an age 
when the principles of political economy 
have elevated the working class above 
the place they ever filled before, and 
when that elevation is constantly in¬ 
creased by discoveries and the inven¬ 
tions of machinery, that you can perma¬ 
nently exclude the whole mass of the 
working people from the franchise ? 
You say you must not give them the 
whole power. Well, they answer, 

‘ You give us none. ’ And I say it is the 
interest and duty of the ruling class of 
this country, and of the middle class who 
are supposed to have power, that it is 
their interest as soon as possible to solve 
that question, and that there is danger 
in allowing it to go on unsolved. 

You know, gentlemen, I never pero¬ 
rate ; when I have done I leave off, and 
sit down. On this occasion 1 most cor¬ 
dially thank you. When I came into this 
room I confess I felt daunted, for I did 
not believe I could have talked so as to 
be heard by this whole assembly; but 
your kindness and your exceeding in¬ 
dulgence has made the task pleasant to 
me, and I thank you for the manner in 
which you have received and listened 
to me. 



INDIA. 


HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 27, 1853. 


[On June 3, 1853, Sir Charles Wood introduced his India Bill. Lord Stanley moved an 
Amendment, the object of which was to delay the measure, but this Amendment 
was rejected by 182 votes : 322 to 140. Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright were in the 
minority.] 


I DO not know whether I should have 
deemed it necessary to address the House 
myself but for the circumstance of my 
having served upon the Committee ap¬ 
pointed to inquire into the Government 
of our Indian territories; but, before 
troubling the House with the few remarks 
which I feel bound to make, I should 
wish to offer an observation on the ques¬ 
tion which has just been asked by my 
hon. Friend the Member for Ashton- 
under-Lyne (Mr. Hindley). With regard 
to the conduct of that Committee, allu¬ 
sion had been made to its proceedings 
during the last Parliament, and it is allow¬ 
able to speak of that Parliament as one 
would speak of the Long Parliament, 
without offence to the House, since it has 
passed away and is now matter of history. 
Now, I feel bound to say, that during 
that Parliament the conduct of that Com¬ 
mittee was not such as to entitle it to be 
cited as an authority, or to inspire any 
very great degree of confidence in its 
action. 

That Committee was appointed to in¬ 
quire into the important question of the 
Government of India, and it was divided 
into eight heads. The first was the ques¬ 
tion as to the machinery by which the 
Government of India was carried on. 
Upon that head the Committee examined 


eighteen witnesses, every one of whom 
had been officially in the employment 
of the Court of Directors or of the 
Board of Control, or had been in some 
manner connected with one or other of 
those services ; and, after the examina¬ 
tion of those persons, the Committee came 
to a kind of qualified Resolution ap¬ 
proving the conduct of the Government 
of India. In my opinion, at a future 
period, if some dusky agitator on the 
banks of the Ganges should want to find 
a grievance in the conduct of the British 
Legislature towards the Hindoo popu¬ 
lation, he would cite the fact which I 
have just mentioned, and he would find 
it potent to raise the indignation of the 
population, for a more unfair proceeding 
was never perpetrated by any'tribunal 
calling itself impartial. I will mention, 
as requested by the hon. Member for 
Montrose(Mr. Hume), that in that Com¬ 
mittee there were two Members who 
voted against that Resolution. 

But, before the Committee in the pre¬ 
sent Parliament has proceeded to the ex¬ 
tent of half their inquiry, it is announced 
to the House that the Government 
measure on the subject is prepared. 
Now, I will confess that from the time 
that this announcement was made, I have 
myself never attended that Committee, 
32 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 27, 


498 

for although I always try, when serving 
upon any Committee, to be as assidu¬ 
ous as any member of it, yet I consider 
that from the moment the Government 
has taken up this question it has passed 
from the hands of the Committee. I 
see no good that we can do in collecting 
facts and information for the Government 
of India, seeing that they are generally 
obtained from persons who come from 
India, or who have been employed there, 
and who are more accessible to the Indian 
authorities. It is my opinion that the 
whole case is prejudged, and that a ver¬ 
dict has been brought in without going 
through the preliminaries of a trial; and 
I must decline, except under the express 
order of this House, to attend that Com¬ 
mittee for the future, or in any way to 
sanction such a course of proceeding. 

The question at issue now is—whether 
the subject shall be postponed; and, if 
it be decided that such is to be the course 
pursued, I will willingly return to my 
duties in the Committee, and give my 
constant attention to the inquiry, which 
should, I must say, be one of consider¬ 
able importance in deciding the question. 
The House is now called upon to decide 
whether the present Bill shall pass, or 
whether the subject shall be postponed 
for two years, leaving the Government 
of India, in the interim, just as it is at 
present. I wish to state now, once for 
all, that I do not consider it a party 
question. The hon. Member for North 
Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) complains 
that I and my friends have taken too 
material a view of the question, as af¬ 
fecting the interests of Lancashire and 
the other manufacturing districts. Now, 
if that were true, it cannot be said that 
we have taken up the question in a party 
spirit; but, as far as I am acquainted 
with the feelings of the people of Lanca¬ 
shire and Yorkshire, I believe they are 
generally in favour of postponement. 

In my opinion, the subject is one 
which calls for further inquiry, more 
particularly as regards the Home Go¬ 
vernment of India. The problem to 
solve is, whether a single or a double 
government would be most advant¬ 


ageous; and, in considering that point, 
I am met by this difficulty—that I cannot 
see that the present form of government 
is a double government at all. I have 
endeavoured to find out what are the 
powers of the East India Directory, 
which entitle them to be called a Govern¬ 
ment, and I have looked through the 
Charter Act to see what controlling 
power is bestowed upon them, and, with 
the exception of the disposal of the 
patronage, there is no power granted to 
them by Act of Parliament. The Act 
leaves the whole controlling power to 
the Board of Commissioners for man- 
aging the affairs of India. I, therefore, 
look upon the Court of Directors, not as 
a Government, but as nothing besides a 
screen, behind which the real Government 
is hid. It is because I wish to get rid of 
that screen, and that the real Govern¬ 
ment may stand before the House and 
the world in its proper character, and 
take upon its shoulders the responsibility 
of the misgovemment of India—if there 
be any—that I want to have this matter 
simplified, and to do away with the 
double government, that is, to bring into 
office the real Government of India. 

There has been much misapprehension 
with regard to this double government. 
Till the last year or two, I do not believe 
that anybody understood it at all. Lord 
Hardinge spoke of it as a mystery, and 
said it was looked upon as a mystery in 
India; and he mentioned the instance 
of an officer of rank in India, who had 
written an indignant letter to the Presi¬ 
dent of the Board of Control in reference 
to a communication of the Secret Com¬ 
mittee of the Court of Directors, express¬ 
ing his amazement at the conduct of that 
Committee; and he was only restrained 
from sending it by Lord Hardinge telling 
him that the Secret Committee of the 
Board of Directors was the President of 
the Board of Control himself. Many 
persons whose opinions on the affairs of 
India are most authoritative, in reality do 
not know what the double government 
really is. Mr. Marshman, the conductor 
of the Friend of India, a strong advocate 
of ‘things as they are,’ when fairly 



INDIA. 


499 


1853 - 

probed and pushed on the subject, shows 
that he, who was instructing them all, 
and sending pamphlets to all the Mem¬ 
bers of the Legislature, has very little 
fundamental knowledge of what this 
Government is. Part of the evidence 
given by this gentleman is so illustrative 
of this, that I hope the House will per¬ 
mit me to read an extract :— 

‘ In seeking to acquaint yourself with the 
form of Government for India, you would 
resort exclusively to the Act of Parliament 
under which the present Government of 
India is constituted ?—Yes. 

‘ Do you find that by this Act of Parlia¬ 
ment any discretionary powers are vested 
in the Court of Directors, except with re¬ 
ference to the disposal of the patronage?— 

I should think they are responsible to the 
Board of Control. 

' Admitting that the Court of Directors 
have no uncontrolled power in the Govern¬ 
ment 'of India, how can you make them 
responsible either to Parliament or to the 
people of India?—It was the intention of 
the Act to confer certain powers upon them, 
and to give a control over the exercise of 
those powers to the Board of Control. 

‘ You admit that, unless a party has 
power entrusted to it, it cannot be respons¬ 
ible for the exercise of its power?—No; I 
can, therefore, only say that they are re¬ 
sponsible for the exercise of all the powers 
given to them in that Act. 

‘ You say still that this Act was intended 
to vest a certain power in the East India 
Company ?—There must have been some 
object in view in creating the present Go¬ 
vernment of the East India Company. 

‘ You say you believe that the intention 
of Parliament was to give certain powers 
to the East India Company; having ad¬ 
mitted that no such powers exist, except in 
the disposal of patronage, you would admit 
that, if Parliament had such an object, it 
has failed to accomplish it?—That very 
much depends upon the working of the 
system Although Parliament may have 
exempted nothing from the control of the 
Board of Control, yet it is certain that the 
Court of Directors were intended to be a 
body employed in the administration of the 
affairs of India. 

‘ To the extent of the disposal of patron¬ 
age?—Not merely to the extent of the dis- I 
posal of patronage, because the patronage I 


of the Court of Directors consists only in 
appointment to service, and not in appoint¬ 
ment to office. The great patronage lies 
in the hands of the Governor-General and 
the Governors of the various Presidencies. 
All the patronage which the Court has to 
dispose of is the appointment to writerships 
and cadetships. 

‘ Will you explain to the Committee 
what power the Court of Directors have 
under this Charter Act beyond the disposal 
of patronage ?—I cannot exactly speak to 
that, because I have not seen the interior 
working of the system of either the Court 
of Directors or the Board of Control. 

‘ I only wish for an answer founded 
upon this Act of Parliament for the govern¬ 
ment of India ?—All I can say is, if this 
Act of Parliament was intended to give 
them no powerwhateverexcept the disposal 
of patronage, it could not be considered an 
Act for vesting the administration of affairs 
in the hands of the East India Company.’ 

This great oracle of the East India 
Company himself admits that, if there 
is no power vested in the Court of Di¬ 
rectors but that of the patronage, there 
is really no government vested in them 
at all. Now, all this mystery is pro¬ 
ductive of the greatest evils. You have 
been simplifying the procedure, and get¬ 
ting rid of fictitious forms, in your own 
Courts of Law recently. You have 
banished John Doe and Richard Roe 
from your Courts; but here you still 
have John Doe and Richard Roe in the 
Government of India. Then what is the 
advantage of such a system ? Is it for 
the benefit either of the people of Eng¬ 
land or of India? On this subject I 
would refer to the evidence of a gentle¬ 
man, the most remarkable for ability 
among all the able men who have been 
brought before the Committee by the 
Court of Directors, who has filled very 
high offices in India — 1 mean Mr. 
Halliday. This gentleman—speaking 
in the face of the Court of Directors—in 
the very presence of his employers and 
masters—having stated that the Charter, 
giving a twenty years’ lease to the East 
India Company, was considered by the 
natives of India as farming them out, 
was subjected, on account of the use of 



JUNE 27, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


SOO 

this word ‘farming,’ to a great deal of 
cross-examination 

'You used the expression “ fanning the 
Government;" do you believe the people 
of India think the Government of India is 
farmed to the Company in the same sense 
that the taxes were farmed at the period 
you allude to?—They use precisely the 
same word in speaking of the renewal of 
the Charter. They will talk with you as to 
the probability of the " jarch” or " farm " 
being renewed; and, as far as I know, 
they have no other term to express it. 

' Is not that merely through the infirmity 
of their language; have they any word 
which signifies “delegation ” ?—They may 
have; I speak of the fact, and their use of 
the term carries with it a corresponding 
idea. 

■ How would you translate “delegation” 
into Hindostanee; might not “jarch” be 
a fair translation of that term ?—It would 
rather signify “ farm ” or “ lease." 

‘ You said that, in fact, the Government 
was that of the Crown, and that the natives, 
as they become more enlightened, will 
more and more understand it to be so ?— 
It is the case. 

‘As they become more and more en¬ 
lightened, will not the mischief which you 
consider arises from their notion of a farm 
disappear of itself?—It may be in that 
sense, no doubt, and does; and yet there 
arises a proportionate weakness to the 
Government from their seeing that the 
body held up as their apparent governors 
are not their real governors. Without 
wishing to speak irreverently, it has some¬ 
what the appearance of a sham.’ 

Mr. Halliday, in my opinion, disposed 
of the whole question as regarded the 
interests of India, and of this country 
also, if we wish to govern India cheaply 
and beneficially. He said,— 

‘ If you were to change the system, and 
to govern India in the name of the Crown, 
you would immensely add to the reverence 
which the people of India would have for 
your Government, and increase the stability 
of your Empire in the Eastern world.’ 

Mr. Marshman himself, though he did 
not speak of carrying on the Government 
of India under the Crown, distinctly 
and repeatedly laid it down that the 
Government of India should be carried 


on in one office; that the President of 
the Board of Control, or whoever was 
the responsible Minister of India, should 
sit in the same room with those who 
constitute the Council, (now the Court 
of Directors in Leadenhall-street,) and 
should communicate with them orally, 
instead of by correspondence, as at 
present. 

But what are the evils of this delusive 
form of Government? The first and 
greatest of all is this, that public opinion 
is diverted from the subject; that en¬ 
lightened public opinion is not brought 
to bear on Indian questions, which would 
be the case if India were governed in 
the name of the Crown, in just the same 
way as the Colonies have been. It 
might be answered, that if India were 
governed as the Colonies have been, it 
would be governed badly; but if any 
good has arisen from our government of 
the Colonies, it has come from enlight¬ 
ened public opinion, emanating from 
this country, and chiefly brought to bear 
on our Colonial Minister in this House. 
If there be any hope for the amelioration 
of India, it must come from the same 
source ; and I want the Indian Govern¬ 
ment to have such a tangible, visible 
form, that the public opinion of this 
country may be able to reach it, and 
that there may be no mask or screen 
before it as now. With an enlightened 
public opinion brought to bear more 
directly on the affairs of India, there will 
be a better chance of avoiding that 
source of all fiscal embarrassment, con¬ 
stant wars, and constant annexation of 
territory. In other parts of the world, 
no Minister of the Crown would take 
credit for offering to annex territory any¬ 
where. On the west coast of Africa, it 
might not be less profitable to extend 
our territory than in Burmah; yet a 
Resolution of a Committee of this House, 
many years ago, forbad the extension of 
our territories in tropical countries. 
When an adventurous gentleman, Sir 
James Brooke, went out and took pos¬ 
session of some territory on the coast of 
Borneo, the enlightened Government of 
Sir Robert Peel and his colleagues 




INDIA. 


1853- 

resolutely resisted all attempts to induce 
them to occupy any territory there. 
Recently, when it was announced in this 
House that orders had been given to 
the admiral on that station that on no 
account should any fresh territory be 
acquired, the announcement was received 
with loud cheering. We had arrived at 
a point when public opinion in this 
House and the country would prevent 
any such thing ; and I believe the lead¬ 
ing statesmen on both sides would reso- 
’utely set themselves against any extension 
of our territory in tropical countries. 

Then how is it that this goes on con¬ 
stantly in India, to the loss and dilapid¬ 
ation of its finances ? With a declaration 
in the journals of this House, and in an 
Act of Parliament never repealed, that 
the honour and interest of this country 
were concerned in not extending its 
territory in the East, these continual 
annexations still go on in India. Why 
do these things happen ? It is because 
at the present time all the authority in 
these matters is left virtually in the hands 
of the Governor-General of India. I 
say virtually, because I believe they rest, 
in point of law, with the President 
of the Board of Control. Nothing can 
be more conclusive than the distinctness 
of the avowal of Lord Broughton, 
that he was responsible for the war in 
Affghanistan; and the declaration of 
Lord Ellenborough, that when he was 
President of that Board, he knew that 
he governed India. I am, therefore, 
astonished, when I hear the right hon. 
Gentleman opposite (Mr. Herries) state, 
that neither he nor his predecessors in 
office were responsible for the wars in 
India, but that the Governor-General is 
responsible for them. 

When there exist such differences of 
opinion on such an important question— 
a question which involves not only the 
fate of India but of England—is it not 
high time to come to some definite un¬ 
derstanding on the subject? Is it not 
right, when such differences of opinion 
exist between men of the highest author¬ 
ity, that there should be a little delay, 
in order that we may all come to an 


Soi 

understanding on so vital a point ? Prac¬ 
tically, I believe that these things are 
carried on in India, where the Governor- 
General is surrounded by an atmosphere 
of a warlike tendency—where the mere 
rumour of war is received with favour by 
all who constitute public opinion in that 
country. Even Lord Dalhousie himself 
has so far given in to this spirit as to 
make a declaration, that— 

1 In the exercise of a wise and sound 
policy, the British Government is bound 
not to put aside such rightful opportunities 
of acquiring territory or revenue as may 
from time to time present themselves.’ 

Yet this is said in the teeth of an Act 
of Parliament which declares that it is 
contrary to sound policy to annex any 
more territory to our dominions in the 
East. And this declaration of Lord 
Dalhousie came out before the declara¬ 
tion of the President of the United States, 
General Pierce, who made a qualified 
statement that the United States would 
annex territory by every just and lawful 
means. We can be very censorious when 
we hear of such a declaration being made 
by the President of another State, but 
we do not attach the same importance to 
what is said by Lord Dalhousie. How 
is this ? If Lord Dalhousie had been in 
any responsible position in this House, 
or had stood in the character of a Colo¬ 
nial Minister, he could have been asked 
for an explanation, and might have been 
reminded that such declarations are not 
in accordance with the views and inter¬ 
ests of the nation. It is, however, my 
firm belief, that nothing will awaken the 
people of this country to a proper sense 
of their responsibility and peril in the 
East, but a due appreciation of the state 
and prospects of the revenue of that 
country. There can be no doubt that 
in India the extension of our territories 
is popular among the servants of the 
Company. In one of the most influen¬ 
tial organs of the Indian Government it 
is stated,— 

‘ Every one out of England is now ready 
to acknowledge that the whole of Asia, 
from the Indus to the Sea of Ochotzk, is 



JUNE 27, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


destined to become the patrimony of that 
race which the Normans thought, six cen¬ 
turies ago, they had finally crushed, but 
which now stands at the head of European 
civilisation. We are placed, it is said, by 
the mysterious but unmistakable designs 
of Providence, in command of Asia ; and 
the people of England must not lay the 
flattering unction to their souls, that they 
can escape from the responsibility of this 
lofty and important position, by simply 
denouncing the means by which England 
has attained it.’ 

When asked if Calcutta was a good cen¬ 
tral station for the metropolis of India, 
Mr. Marshman, the proprietor of the 
above newspaper, stated to the Com¬ 
mittee that— 

‘ It may not be at present, but it will be 
a good central station when we extend our 
dominion eastward.’ 

This shows the projects which the most 
influential men in India have in view. 

I will now refer to the Secret Com¬ 
mittee of the India House. I should 
like to have the cross-examination of 
every Member of that House, and to ask 
them what they do know of this Secret 
Committee. It is composed of three 
gentlemen from the Board of Directors, 
to whom all the communications from 
the Board of Control are made. It is in 
the power of the President of the Board 
of Control to sit down and write an 
order to annex China, and send that 
order to these three Gentlemen, who 
form what is called the Secret Commit¬ 
tee at the India House ; and they are 
obliged to send the order to India, for 
prosecution by the Governor-General. 
They may altogether disapprove of the 
order, but nevertheless they are com¬ 
pelled to send it to India. Mr. Melvill, 
Secretary to the East India Company, 
stated, that in all cases of declaration of 
war, it is within the power of the Board 
of Control to act through the Secret 
Committee, without the concurrence of 
the Court of Directors—that orders may 
be sent out by the President of the 
Board, through the Secret Committee, 
to annex the Burman or Chinese Empire 
to India, without the English people 


knowing anything about the order. The 
Court of Directors cannot know it. On 
the question being asked,— 

‘ How are the English people to know 
it, if the Court of Directors do not know 
it?’ his reply was—‘Till it comes back 
from India, till it is a fait accompli , or the 
result of the orders is ascertained, they 
cannot know it.’ 

Now, what is the practical effect of 
this state of things ? The Court of Di¬ 
rectors are often attacked for not making 
railways and works of irrigation ; and I 
think they deserve the charges brought 
against them, so long as they submit to 
the humiliation of their present condi¬ 
tion. How can they be expected to make 
railways and other public works, when 
they cannot prevent the President of the 
Board of Control, or the Governor-Gen¬ 
eral, at any time wasting the substance 
in war which should be applied to these 
improvements? Suppose that some of 
the twenty-four Directors should sit 
down, having 4,cxx),ooo/. surplus, which 
the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. 
Mangles) spoke of, and a surplus of 
2,000,000/. a year besides, for the pur¬ 
pose of devising plans of railways, and 
other works for India? Suppose that 
they have the maps and plans before 
them, and that they have called in the 
assistance of such able engineers as Mr. 
Locke and Mr. Stephenson? At that 
very time a letter may come from the 
office of the President of the Board of 
Control requiring them to send out an 
order to Lord Dalhousie to fit out an 
expedition to Rangoon for the conquest 
of Burmah; and when that is done, then 
adieu to the railways and the fabulous 
4,000,000/. which the hon. Member for 
Guildford speaks of. But the most ridi¬ 
culous part of the matter is, that the 
gentlemen of the Secret Committee, 
looking over these surveys, plans, and 
maps, and knowing the orders sent from 
the Board of Control, must be perfectly 
aware that all this is a mere waste of 
time ; and yet they dare not tell their 
own colleagues, and they must remain 
in complete ignorance till they learn how 
the matter stands, by the arrival of the 



INDIA. 


1 ®S3- 

Indian mail. Under such circumstances, 
they do not deserve the name of a Go¬ 
vernment. 

And what can be the motive for in¬ 
ducing these twenty-four gentlemen to 
endure being taunted with the evils of a 
system under which they are held to be 
responsible, and yet are not trusted with 
power ? The reward which they receive 
for submitting to this humiliation is the 
patronage of India, and this is another 
evil arising from the system of double 
government. Now, it is one of the evils 
of this system, that the patronage is in a 
great many instances given to Europeans, 
where it ought to be given to natives. 
But as the Court of Directors are paid 
by patronage and not by stipends, they, 
of course, dispose of that patronage to 
their friends in this country. I want to 
see a large number of natives brought 
into the employment of the Government. 
(Hear.) Yes; but the same thing was 
promised in 1833, and it was contem¬ 
plated in the Act of Parliament, but it 
was never carried out, and it never will 
be, as long as the patronage is disposed 
of in its present form. But if we get rid 
of the double government, and make the 
Minister for India responsible for the 
government of India, then public opinion 
in this country will be brought to bear 
upon him, and he will be invited to dis¬ 
tribute more of his patronage amongst 
the natives, because the people of this 
country will not endure that the vast 
patronage of India shall be in the hands 
of the Minister of the Crown for distri¬ 
buting amongst his political supporters 
here. 

I have been particularly struck with 
the overwhelming evidence which is 
given as to the fitness of the natives of 
India for high offices and employments. 
Nothing comes out clearer before the 
Committee than this—that the natives 
are well fitted to hold the higher class of 
offices. It was stated that ninety-seven 
per cent, of the judicial cases were dis¬ 
posed of by them. But they are em¬ 
ployed to do the humblest work, at low 
and insufficient salaries. I wish to see 
some of the offices, which are now filled 


5°3 

by Europeans, at salaries from 2,000/. 
to 3,000/. a year, filled by natives at half 
that stipend, which will be as much 
to them as double the amount to the 
Europeans who receive it. All the great 
authorities in Indian matters, Munro, 
Metcalfe, Malcolm, and Elphinstone, 
advocate the distribution of patronage to 
the natives. I was greatly struck with 
the answer of Sir G. Clerk to a question 
on this point. He says, that the natives 
are perfectly competent to decide cases 
and settle differences. Mr. Halliday also 
gave evidence to the same effect. But 
the only way of ensuring the employ¬ 
ment of natives in the higher offices is to 
take away the patronage from the Court 
of Directors. 

I will now call the attention of the 
House to a point of considerable import¬ 
ance, which was strikingly illustrated by 
the facts attending the commencement 
of the Burmese war in which we are 
now engaged. It is another fact, which 
is a proof of the precipitancy with 
which the measure has been brought 
forward, and I believe it has not been 
noticed before in the course of the debate. 
I wish to refer to the state of the rela¬ 
tions between the vessels of war in the 
Indian waters and the Government of 
India; and, in illustration of what I 
mean, I beg leave to state what has taken 
place on the breaking out of this war. 
In the month of July, 1851, a small 
British vessel arrived at Rangoon, the 
captain of which was charged with 
throwing a pilot overboard, and robbing 
him of 500 rupees. The case was brought 
before the Governor of Rangoon ; and, 
after undergoing a great many hardships, 
the captain was mulcted in the amount 
of rupees. A month after this, another 
English vessel arrived, having on board 
two coolies from the Mauritius, who 
secreted themselves in the vessel when 
she left. On their arrival, they said that 
the captain had murdered one of the 
crew during the voyage. The captain 
was tried for this, and he was mulcted 
also. An application was made to the 
Governor-General for redress, and a 
demand was made on the Burmese 





5°4 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 27, 


authorities to the amount of 1,900/. for 
money extorted, for demurrage of the 
vessels, and other injuries inflicted. The 
Governor-General ordered an investiga¬ 
tion of the case, and he awarded 920/. 
as sufficient. At this time there was 
lying in the Hooghly a vessel of war com¬ 
manded by Commodore Lambert, and 
the Governor-General thought that the 
presence of this vessel afforded a good 
opportunity for obtaining redress. The 
House should understand that there was 
no other case to be redressed than these 
two; that the parties in them were 
British subjects, and that the Governor 
of Rangoon did not adjudicate between 
Burmese subjects and British subjects. 
Commodore Lambert was furnished with 
very precise instructions indeed. He was 
first to make inquiry as to the validity 
of the original claim, and, if he found 
that it was well founded, he was to apply 
to the Governor of Rangoon for redress ; 
and, in case of a refusal on his part, he 
was furnished with a letter from the 
Governor-General to the King of Ava, 
to be sent up by him to the capital; and 
he was then to proceed to the Persian 
Gulf, for which place he was under 
orders. He was told not to commit any 
act of hostility, if redress was refused, till 
he had heard again from the Governor- 
General. These were very proper and 
precise instructions. On the arrival of 
the Commodore at Rangoon, he was met 
by boats §lled with British subjects, who 
complained of the conduct of the Go¬ 
vernor of Rangoon. If the House wishes 
for an amusing description of the British 
subjects of Rangoon, I would recommend 
them to read Lord Ellenborough’s sketch 
of them in a speech which he delivered 
in the House of Lords. Rangoon is, 
it appears, the Alsatia of Asia, and is 
filled by all the abandoned characters 
whom the other parts of India are too 
hot to hold. Commodore Lambert re¬ 
ceived the complaints of all these people; 
and he sent off the letter to the King of 
Ava at once, which he was instructed to 
send only in case redress was refused ; 
and he made no inquiry with respect to 
the original cause of the dispute, and 


the validity of the claims put forward. 
He also sent a letter from himself to the 
Prime Minister of the King of Ava, and 
demanded an answer in t'hirty-five days. 
The post took from ten to twelve days 
to go to Ava, and at the end of twenty- 
six days an answer came back from the 
King to the Governor-General, and to 
Commodore Lambert from the Prime 
Minister. It was announced that the 
Governor of Rangoon was dismissed, and 
that a new Governor was appointed, who 
would be prepared to look into the matter 
in dispute, and adjust it. Commodore 
Lambert sent off the King of Ava’s letter 
to the Governor-General, with one from 
himself, stating that he had no doubt the 
King of Ava and his Government meant 
to deal fairly by them. Meantime, the 
new Governor of Rangoon came down 
in great state, and Commodore Lambert 
sent three officers on shore with a letter 
to him. The letter was sent at twelve 
o’clock in the day, and when they arrived 
at the house they were refused admit¬ 
tance, on the plea that the Governor was 
asleep. It was specifically stated that 
the officers were kept waiting a quarter 
of an hour in the sun. At the end of 
that quarter of an hour they returned to 
the ship, and, without waiting a minute 
longer, Commodore Lambert, notwith¬ 
standing that he had himself declared 
that he had no doubt justice would be 
done, ordered the port to be blockaded, 
having first directed the British residents 
to come on board. During the night, 
he seized the only vessel belonging to 
the King of Ava, which he towed out 
to sea. 

This brings me to the point to which 
I am desirous of calling the attention of 
the House. Lord Dalhousie had no 
power to give orders to Commodore 
Lambert in that station; he could merely 
request and solicit the co-operation of 
the commanders of the Queen’s forces, 
just as we might solicit the co-operation 
of a friendly foreign Power. See what 
the effect of this system is. If Commo¬ 
dore Lambert had been sent out with 
orders from the First Lord of the 
Admiralty, he would not have dared to 



INDIA. 


i8S3- 

deviate from them in the slightest re¬ 
spect, much less to commence a war. 
Owing, however, to the anomalous system 
existing in India, Commodore Lambert 
felt at liberty to act on his own respons¬ 
ibility ; and hence the Burmese war. 
Why has not this blot been hit upon by 
the framers of the present Bill ? Can 
there be a stronger proof of the undue 
precipitancy with which the Govern¬ 
ment measure has been introduced than 
this — that it leaves the great defect 
which I have pointed out—a defect lead¬ 
ing to results of immense gravity—un¬ 
cured ? The Government cannot plead 
ignorance ; they cannot allege that their 
attention had not been directed to the 
matter. On the 25th of March, Lord 
Ellenborough referred to the subject in 
the House of Lords ; and on that occa¬ 
sion Lord Broughton, who had just left 
office, stated that he had received an 
official communication from Lord Dal- 
housie relative to the anomalous charac¬ 
ter of the relations subsisting between 
the Governor-General and the Queen’s 
commanders, and expressing a hope that 
the evil would be corrected in the forth¬ 
coming Charter Act. But there is 
nothing on this important subject in the 
present Bill; and is not this another 
ground for delay till we have obtained 
further information ? 

I have now to say a few words on the 
subject of the finances of India; and, 
in speaking on this subject, I cannot 
separate the finances of India from those 
of England. If the finances of the Indian 
Government receive any severe and 
irreparable check, will not the resources 
of England be called upon to meet the 
emergency, and to supply the deficiency? 
Three times during the present century 
the Court of Directors has called on the 
House of Commons to enable them to 
get rid of the difficulties which pressed 
upon them. And do you suppose, that 
if such a case were to occur again, that 
England would refuse her aid ? Why, 
the point of honour, if there were no 
other reason, would compel us to do so. 
Do you not hear it said, that your Indian 
Empire is concerned in keeping the 


S^S 

Russians out of Constantinople, which 
is, by the way, 6,000 miles distant from 
Calcutta; and if we are raising outworks 
at a distance of 6,000 miles, let no man 
say that the finances of England are not 
concerned in the financial condition of 
India. The hon. Member for Guildford 
(Mr. Mangles), referring to this subject 
on Friday night, spoke in a tone that 
rather surprised me; he taxed those who 
opposed the measure with a readiness to 
swallow anything, and twitted my hon. 
Friend (Mr. Bright) with saying that the 
debt of India, contracted since the last 
Charter Act, was 20,000,000/. The 
hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mangles) said it 
was only 9,000,000/. There has, he 
said, been 13,000,000/. increase of debt, 
but that there was 4,000,000/. of reserve 
in the Exchequer. I will quote the 
evidence of Mr. Melvill, who signed all 
the papers that have come before the 
Committee on this point. Mr. Melvill, 
being asked what the amount of the debt 
was, says :—‘ The amount of the debt is 
over 20,000,000/.’ After this answer of 
Mr. Melvill, what becomes of the state¬ 
ment of the hon. Member for Guildford? 
But I must say that there is a very great 
difference in the opinions and statements 
of Indian authorities. The evidence of 
Mr. Prinsep was different from that of 
the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mangles); 
that of the hon. Gentleman was different 
from the opinion of the hon. Member 
for Honiton (Sir J. Hogg); that of Mr. 
Melvill was different from all of them, 
and Mr. Melvill was sometimes of a dif¬ 
ferent opinion from his own papers. I 
want to give you an opportunity of making 
up your minds on this subject, and of 
correcting the statements that come be¬ 
fore you, for you are to judge of the 
financial results of your management of 
India. 

The honourable Baronet the Member 
for Lloniton stated the deficiency at 
15,344,000/. ; but he has not taken into 
the account, as he was bound to do, the 
sum realised by the commercial assets of 
the Company. Three or four years sub¬ 
sequently to the renewal of the Charter, 
in 1833, the Company’s assets, consisting 



JUNE 27, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


5 o 5 

of ships, stock, &c., were sold, and 
realised 12,661,000/. What people want 
in taking stock, is to know how much 
richer or poorer they are as compared 
with the last time of striking the balance ; 
and yet these gentlemen kept out of view 
a sum of upwards of 12,000,000/., which 
they have consumed, exhausted, and 
spent; and they say that there is only 
a deficiency of 15,344,000/., when, in 
fact, there is a deficiency of 28,000,000/., 
as compared with the former period. 
The hon. Member for Guildford shakes 
his head; but I appeal to the House 
whether those who are entrusted with the 
affairs of the East India Company, and 
who cannot take stock in a way to satisfy 
any Commissioner of Bankruptcy in the 
case of the humblest retail trader, are 
entitled to manage the vast concerns 
with which they are now entrusted? 
The amount, then, of defalcation, in the 
last nineteen or twenty years, has been 
28,000,000/. ; and, if things are to go on 
in the same way for the next twenty 
years, we should have a debt very nearly 
approaching 100,000,000/. But the worst 
part of the case is, that whereas in former 
instances, when this question has been 
discussed, there was something very bad 
indeed in the present and the past, yet 
the House was always told that there 
was something in the future to be ap¬ 
pealed to which would compensate for 
all previous calamities ; but now it is a 
remarkable circumstance, that, while 
there is nothing satisfactory in the past, 
still less is there anything consolatory in 
the prospects for the future. The hon. 
Member for Honiton has told the House, 
that, with respect to one essential item 
of Indian revenue—that of opium—he 
considers it in peril. That hon. Gentle¬ 
man does not seem to see how he is 
changing his tone, and assuming two 
characters in the course of his speech, 
when dealing with the future and the 
past. The hon. Gentleman, while an¬ 
swering in an indignant tone the remarks 
of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. 
Bright), said, with a view of showing 
that the ‘ Constitution had worked well,’ 
that— 


1 The gross revenue has increased nearly 
9,000,000/., yet many taxes have been en¬ 
tirely abolished and others reduced. Is it 
not astounding, when the Indian revenue 
has increased to such an amount, to hear de¬ 
clamation about the misery, the destitution, 
and the poverty of the country ? The debt 
shows an increase of 15,344,000/. ; but 
what is this compared with the increase 
which I have shown to have taken place in 
the revenue? The revenue has increased 
in an infinitely greater proportion, so that 
the increase of the debt is perfectly im¬ 
material.' 

Now, what would a person think of a 
steward who came before him with an 
account of the condition of his estate, 
and told him that the debt had increased 
so much, but, as the rents had increased 
so much more, it did not signify how the 
debt had increased? Yet the steward 
might have said that he had spent the 
money in improving the estate, in erect¬ 
ing buildings, and making roads. The 
Directors of the India Company, how¬ 
ever, do not tell the House that they 
have increased irrigation, or the facilities 
of communication in India. All this 
money has been wasted, and is gone, and 
the people have no compensation for it. 
The hon. Member for Honiton argues, 
that it is of no consequence how the 
India Company got into debt, so long 
as they have increased the revenue thirty 
per cent. Is it, then, to such financiers 
that the fate of India and of England— 
for the interests of both are connected— 
is to be entrusted ? But, after giving this 
glowing description, the hon. Member 
for Honiton took the other side, when 
he had another purpose to serve ; and 
then he endeavoured to show that, after 
all, the state of the Indian finances was 
not such as to encourage Parliament to 
assume the possession of them on the 
part of the Crown. The hon. Gentleman 
said that— 

‘ The cultivation of opium was, he be¬ 
lieved, about to be legalised in China ; and, 
if that were so, it would have a considerable 
effect upon the finances of India, and the 
House ought, under such circumstances, to 
hesitate before assigning India entirely to 
the Crown with its liabilities and its debts.’ 



INDIA. 


i 853 - 

And then he turned round and said,— 

‘ Will you, with the Burmese war at 
hand, and with the prospect of losing the 
opium revenue, take upon yourselves all 
the responsibilities involved in governing 
India?' 

I am sorry to find the right hon. Gen¬ 
tleman (Sir C. Wood) falling into the 
same tone:— 

‘ Seeing,' he said, ' into what a debt the 
East India Company has fallen, do you 
think it would be a pleasant thing for me 
to announce to the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, that he would have this deficit 
to provide for in his financial scheme ? ’ 

Was there ever anything more utterly 
indefensible than such a position as that ? 
If we allow the right hon. Gentleman 
to have another lease, on the plea that 
the finances have been brought into such 
a state that it is not desirable for us to 
assume the management for ourselves, 
what inducement do we hold out to him 
to do better in future? I think this 
House must be very shallow indeed, and 
the country greatly wanting in that sa¬ 
gacity for which it has credit, if they 
allowed themselves to be deluded by 
such a plea as this. The hon. Member 
for Guildford (Mr. Mangles), in the 
course of his remarks, took the hon. 
Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) to 
task on the subject of the Punjaub and 
its expenses. The hon. Member stated, in 
the jaunty style to which I have alluded, 
that the acquisition of the Punjaub had 
not increased our expenses, because the 
troops there have been pushed forward 
from the frontier, and, therefore, consti¬ 
tute no addition to our expenditure. I 
will again quote on this subject from the 
East India Company’s own authority, 
the statement made by Mr. Kaye in his 
‘ History of the Administration of the 
East India Company. ’ Mr. Kaye said,— 

‘The Punjaub is not yet remunerative. 
Some little time must elapse before the 
revenues of the country can be made to 
exceed the cost of its productive and ad¬ 
ministrative establishments. The estimated 
amount of revenue for 1851-2 is 130 lacs 
of rupees, with about four lacs of addi¬ 
tional receipts in the shape of proceeds of 


S°7 

confiscated Sikh property and refunded 
charges. The total expenditure is esti¬ 
mated at about 120 lacs of rupees. This 
leaves only a surplus of fourteen lacs for the 
maintenance of the regular troops posted 
in the Punjaub ; and, as a large reduction 
of the army might have been, indeed would 
have been, effected but for the annexation 
of the Sikh States.it cannot be argued that 
the military expenditure is not fairly charge¬ 
able to the province. It is true, of course, 
that the possession of the Punjaub has en¬ 
abled us to withdraw a considerable body 
of troops from the line of country which 
constituted our old frontier, and that a 
deduction on this score of frontier defence 
must be made from the gross charges of the 
regular military establishments employed 
beyond the Sutlej. Still, the cost of the 
regular troops fairly chargeable to the 
Punjaub absorbs the estimated surplus, and 
leaves a balance against the newly-acquired 
States. 

Mr. Kaye says, there would have been 
a large reduction of the army, if it had not 
been for the occupation of the Punjaub. 
I' 1 1835, the number of troops, European 
and native, was 184,700; in 1851, accord¬ 
ing to the last return, it was 289,500, be¬ 
ing an increase of upwards of 100,000. 
What was this increase for, unless it 
were that the new acquisitions required 
an augmentation of force ? During the 
same period, the European force was in¬ 
creased from 30,800 to 49,000 men ; the 
ground of this particular increase being, 
that the Sikhs, being a northern nation, 
could only be kept in awe by Europeans. 

Now, if I could treat this question as 
many persons do ; if I could believe that 
the East India Company is a reality; if 
I believed that they could transfer India 
to the management of some other body, 
and that England would be no more re¬ 
sponsible ; that we could have the trade 
of India, and be under no obligations in 
reference either to its good government 
or its future financial state, I should not 
be the person to come forward and seek 
a disturbance of that arrangement. 
Other people may not share in my 
opinion ; but I am under the impression 
that, so far as the future is concerned, 
we cannot leave a more perilous pos¬ 
session to our children than that which 





SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JUNE 27, 1853. 


508 

we shall leave them in the constantly- 
increasing territory of India. The Eng¬ 
lish race can never become indigenous 
in India; we must govern it, if we 
govern it at all, by means of a succession 
of transient visits; and I do not think it 
is for the interest of the English people, 
any more than of the people of India, 
that we should govern permanently 
100,000,000 people, 12,000 miles off. 
I see no benefit which can arise to the 
mass of the English people from their 
connection with India, except that which 
may arise from honest trade ; I do not 
see how the millions of this country are 
to share in the patronage of India, or to 
derive any advantage from it, except 
through the medium of trade ; and there¬ 
fore, I say emphatically, that if you can 
show me that the East India Company 
is the reality which many persons sup¬ 
pose it to be, I shall not be the party to 
wish to withdraw their responsible trust 
and to place it again in the hands of a 
Minister of the British Crown. But 
when I see that this vast territory is now 
being governed under a fiction, that the 
Government is not a real one, but one 
which one of the most able and faithful 
servants of the Company has declared 
to be a sham, I say, ‘ Do not let the 
people of this country delude themselves 
with the idea that they can escape the 
responsibility by putting the Government 
behind a screen.’ I wish therefore to 
look this question fairly in the face; I 
wish to bring the people of this country 
face to face with the difficulties and dan¬ 
gers with which I think it is beset. Let 
it no longer be thought that a few 


gentlemen meeting in Leadenhall-street 
Can screen the people of England from 
the responsibility with which they have 
invested themselves with regard to India. 
Since the granting of the last Charter, 
more territory has been gained by con¬ 
quest than within any similar period 
before, and the acquisition of territory 
has been constantly accompanied with 
a proportionate increase of debt. We 
have annexed Sattara, and our own blue- 
books prove that it is governed at a loss ; 
we have annexed Scinde, and our own 
books prove that it, too, is governed 
at a loss ; we have annexed Pegu, and 
our own authorities said that this annex¬ 
ation also will involve a loss. All these 
losses must press on the more fertile 
provinces of Bengal, which are constantly 
being drained of their resources to make 
good the deficit. Let me not be told, by- 
and-by, that the annexation of Pegu and 
Burmah will be beneficial. What said 
Lord Dalhousie? He said in his despatch 
—and the declaration should not be for¬ 
gotten—that he looked upon the annex¬ 
ation of Pegu as an evil second only to 
that of war itself; and if we should be 
obliged to annex Burmah, then farewell 
to all prospect of amelioration in Indian 
affairs. Well, then, believing that if this 
fiction Ire destroyed—if this mystery be 
exterminated—the germ of a better state 
of things in reference to this question 
will begin to grow; and believing that 
as yet we are profoundly ignorant of 
what was wanted for India, I shall vote 
for the Amendment, that we should wait 
for two years ; and I hope sincerely that 
the House will agree to it. 




PEACE 

I. 


WREXHAM, NOVEMBER 14, 1850. 

[The following was a Speech made at a great meeting in Wales, held under the 

auspices of the Peace Society.] 


Of all the memorable meetings I have 
ever attended in the United Kingdom, 
I do not think there has been any which, 
in some respects, is more significant and 
surprising than that which I have the 
honour of addressing. The present would 
be a large assembly in any town, upon 
any subject; but when I remember the 
size of Wrexham, and when I remember 
that the large assembly before me is not 
admitted within the precincts of this 
building without payment, and that a 
tolerably large payment, I think this 
part of the United Kingdom must con¬ 
tain a very great number of persons who 
are, at all events, ready to avail them¬ 
selves of the opportunity of hearing 
discussed the subject now submitted to 
their consideration. 

I have heard my own name mentioned 
here several times, and received with 
more kindness and partiality than I could 
possibly have expected to attract from 
such a meeting. But it is my happiness 
to be half Welsh, and that the better 
half. Though I never before had the 
honour of addressing a Welsh audience, 
I am happy that my first meeting with 
you should be on a question second in 
importance to none that can be brought 
before you. We have met this night to 
talk about peace and the Peace Congress; 
and let me once for all say, that when I 


came here to talk of peace, I did not 
mean to treat it as an abstraction. I 
came here as a practical man, to talk, 
not simply on the question of peace and 
war, but to treat another question which 
is of hardly less importance—the enor¬ 
mous and burdensome standing arma¬ 
ments which it is the practice of modem 
Governments to sustain in time of peace. 
For I confess to you, what I have before 
avowed again and again, that I have 
never felt any alarm about any war in 
which England should necessarily be 
concerned. I am quite sure it will be 
our own fault if we enter into any war, 
for there is no danger of anybody coming 
to molest us. Still, I find that we are 
placed in a state of things hardly different 
from that of actual war, being, indeed, 
subject to the burden of war in time of 
peace. 

I am not ashamed to avow that I have 
approached this question not altogether 
and exclusively from that point of view 
from which Mr. Richard has surveyed it. 
I have been brought to the discussion of 
the question from another consideration. 
In dealing with the practical affairs of 
the country, and especially as a politician 
and Member of Parliament, whose duty 
it is to study and control the finances of 
the country, I have come to my conclu¬ 
sion, apart from those high convictions 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN 


NOV. 14, 


510 

which Mr. Richard and Mr. Sturge have 
avowed, and in which I concur, though 
in their presence I am not the proper 
person to dilate upon them. I gather 
my conclusion as one desiring to see that 
the country is governed with economy, 
and the people are not burdened with 
ruinous taxation; that there is a necessity 
for the people of this country to unite 
in supporting the principles of peace, 
as the only means of improving their 
temporal condition. 

Now, I say that I deal with this 
question as a practical man. I have 
lately been travelling in the rural parts 
of Wales, and I find that there is a con¬ 
siderable amount of inconvenience among 
the rural population, among the farming 
world, who complain of low prices, and 
the weight of tithe-rent and taxation. 
We shall have those questions to talk 
over next session. The whole question 
of taxation will then come up. Govern¬ 
ment and Parliament will then have to 
deal with a Budget of pretty nearly 
50,000,000/. a year, and they will have to 
vote money to meet this enormous out¬ 
lay out of funds raised by taxation on the 
people. Now, while the great mass of the 
people are in the enjoyment of a large 
amount of comfort, probably never ex¬ 
ceeded in the centres of industry in former 
times, I do not conceal that there is also 
another great mass of the population, and 
not the least important in a political point 
of view, who are suffering considerable 
pecuniary uneasiness; and therefore there 
will be next session a pressure on Par¬ 
liament for a remission of taxation. 
Now, it is in order to be able to deal 
constitutionally and honestly, and not to 
take the Government or the country by 
surprise on any vote, that I now wish to 
record my opinions, and to prove that 
no sensible remission of taxation can be 
made, unless the country comes to the 
principles of the Peace Society, or at all 
events, goes some length towards its 
objects, and determines to make a very 
large reduction in the military estab¬ 
lishments. 

Will any one, then, dare to say that 
I am making a Utopia of this Peace 


question, and that I am not a practical 
man ? Can there be any doubt that the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, viewing 
his position in his retirement and during 
the recess, must have directed his mind 
to this question, and that he finds dan¬ 
gers and difficulties impending over him 
in the enormous amount of taxation he 
is compelled to demand ? There is a 
Budget of nearly 50,000,000/. to vote 
next session, and has it never entered 
the minds of Gentlemen present to ana¬ 
lyse what it was composed of? In the 
first place, we have to provide 28,000,000/. 
in round numbers out of the taxation, to 
meet the interest of the funded and float¬ 
ing debt—that debt ofnearly 800,000,000/. 
having been almost every farthing con¬ 
tracted in former wars. Deducting those 
28,000,000/., there are left 22,000,000/., 
about 6,500,000/. of which (I still speak 
in round numbers) are alone required to 
carry on the civil government, including 
the expenses of the courts of law, of 
diplomacy, consular establishments, offi¬ 
cial salaries, and everything necessary to 
cover the charge of civil government. 
After that, we have to vote about 
15,500,000/. (I speak of what was done 
last year) for the expenses of the army, 
navy, and ordnance; so that out of 
22,000,000/. required of you to pay the 
current expenditure of the State, more 
than two-thirds are required for military 
expenses—for these two-thirds, taken 
from the taxation of the people, are spent 
on red-coats, blue-jackets, and their 
appurtenances—and one-third covers all 
the other expenses. I cannot but think 
that I should deserve to be scouted if, 
talking to the people of financial reform, 
I advocate the principle of Free Trade, 
that is, of subjecting all classes to the 
rivalry of the foreigner, and declare that 
I wish to see the burden of taxation 
reduced, and yet conceal from you the 
fact, that out of our current expenditure 
about two-thirds go to the army, navy, 
and ordnance. 

I therefore declare, that if you wish 
any remission of the taxation which falls 
upon the homes of the people of Eng¬ 
land and Wales, you can only find it by 



1850. 


PEACE. I. 


reducing the great military establish¬ 
ments, and diminishing the money paid 
to fighting men in time of peace. No 
doubt the next session of Parliament 
will open amidst great clamour for the 
reduction of a great number of taxes ; 
but we cannot reduce taxation unless we 
reduce expenditure. If the expenditure 
is kept up, we must have taxes to pay 
for it; and therefore taxation can only 
be reduced by coming to a resolution 
that we will in some way curtail the 
expenditure. Eut how am I, as an indi¬ 
vidual Member of Parliament, to deal 
with these questions? Motions were 
frequently brought forward to repeal 
obnoxious taxes—such as the window- 
tax, the taxes on knowledge ; and one 
motion last session was to repeal the tax 
on attorneys, who, we are told, were veiy 
oppressed individuals. One hon. Mem¬ 
ber wanted half the duty on malt taken 
off; and another, with more reason, 
wished to repeal half the duty on tea. 
These motions are submitted, one after 
the other, to the House of Commons, 
which is then called on to vote ‘Yes’ or 
‘No’ upon them : but I cannot vote for 
taking off taxes that have been rendered 
necessary by the expenditure which has 
been voted, and I have said, * Meet a re¬ 
duction of taxes by a reduction of expendi¬ 
ture. ’ But having acted in this way, I have 
now no hesitation in declaring in these 
meetings, that if the Government doesnot 
do that which the countiy is told by the 
organs of military men they are not go¬ 
ing to do, if it makes no reduction in 
military establishments, then, under these 
circumstances, I shall vote for taking off 
taxes, and see whether it is possible to 
pay for the military establishments with¬ 
out money. This, I own, is a clumsy 
way, and does not recommend itself to my 
reason ; and I would rather go to work 
as in private matters, and rationally 
discuss what we can reduce in our ex¬ 
penditure, before taking off taxation ; 
but if I find an unfair, unreasonable 
resistance to what I believe to be a fair 
and rational proposition for some reduc¬ 
tion, I must adopt the course I have 
referred to. 


5 ** 

I am not liable to the charge of advo¬ 
cating the total and immediate abolition 
of all our war establishments; but, after 
such meetings as the present, and after the 
declarations which 1 have openly made 
for many years, I feel I shall be perfectly 
free next session, with clean hands, and 
with full consistency and honesty, to vote 
for the removal of taxation, and leave 
the Government to cut the coat accord¬ 
ing to the cloth. I have no doubt that 
in the volume written by Sir F. Head, 
the author of ‘ Bubbles from the Brunnen 
of Nassau,’ which has been referred to, 
we may find some statements which run 
counter to our principles and reasonings. 
But I dare say these ‘ bubbles ’ are just as 
substantial as the facts in the volume; for 
there is something in the antecedents of 
Sir F. Head, and his conduct in Canada, 
which does not recommend him to me 
as a good authority in this affair of our 
finances. Butnodoubt I shall be told that 
we are in great danger from other coun¬ 
tries keeping up large military establish¬ 
ments and coming to attack us. Now, 
the answer I give to that is, that I would 
rather run the risk of France coming to 
attack us than keep up the present estab¬ 
lishments in this country. I have done 
with reasoning on that subject. I would 
rather cut down the expenditure for 
military establishments to 10,000,000/. 
and run every danger from France, or 
any other quarter, than risk the danger 
of attempting to keep up the present 
standard of taxation and expenditure. 

I call those men who write in this way 
cowards. I am not accustomed to pay 
fulsome compliments to the English, by 
telling them that they are superior to all 
the world; but this I can say, that they 
do not deserve the name of cowards. 
The men who write these books must 
be cowards; for I know nothing so 
preposterous as talking of a number of 
Frenchmen coming and taking posses¬ 
sion of London. Who is afraid of them ? 

I believe there never was an instance 
known in the history of the world of as 
many as 50,000 men in military array 
being transported across salt water with¬ 
in twelve months. Napoleon, on going 




5*2 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 14, 


to Egypt, had not so many; and France, 
with twelve months’ preparation, could 
not transport across the sea 50,000 men, 
with all the appliances and muniments 
of war. It never has been, and I do not 
believe that it could be, done in twelve 
months. But I repeat, that I would run 
any risk, and not listen to those who 
would frighten me. I must, however, 
say that I am not one, because I advocate 
the reduction of armaments, who would 
plead guilty to the charge of being a 
coward,orwho would submit to injustice. 
Many people suppose, that because I do 
not advocate bullying every nation on 
the face of the earth, that, therefore, I 
would necessarily submit to any one who 
might do me an injury. That is not the 
character of the Peace Society, nor of 
the members of the Society of Friends, 
who constitute the main force of the 
Peace Association. Read history, and 
see what great courage had been shown 
by the Society of Friends, and whether 
they did not extort from cruel and in¬ 
tolerant Governments toleration before 
any other sect, not by buckling on 
armour, but by knowing how to suffer, 
and by defeating through passive resist¬ 
ance those who attempted to do them 
injustice and wrong. And I say that 
those people on the Continent, who 
have a righteous cause, and wrongs to 
redress, would do well to imitate the 
calm endurance and patient long-suffer¬ 
ing of the members of the Society of 
Friends. I know more than one com¬ 
munity on the Continent to which this 
attitude might be adopted—Lombardy 
has been mentioned—in which was situ¬ 
ated that town of Brescia, where were 
perpetrated those enormities by Haynau, 
and referred to by Mr. Richard. The 
population of that country consists of 
Italians; and men, women, and children 
all joined in opposition and hatred to 
the Austrian rule. But what chance 
had they in conflict with an enemy who 
possessed all the fortresses and muni¬ 
ments of war ? How would it be if the 
Lombards folded their arms, and pro¬ 
fited by the example of the members of 
the Society of Friends? Might they not 


by passive resistance alone set at nought 
the power of the strongest Government 
in Europe ? Let me not be told that I 
am advocating injustice, and a supine 
acquiescence to wrong; for I have ob¬ 
served, that those who take up arms to 
contend against tyranny are not generally 
remarkable for having any success in the 
process, and I have a suspicion that the 
people on the Continent will ultimately 
find better means of emancipating them¬ 
selves from their wrongs than by fighting 
and soldiering, which too often prove 
disastrous to the cause of liberty. 

The best way for us, as Englishmen, 
to deal with the question, is as politicians, 
and more particularly as looking at facts 
from a financial point of view. Every¬ 
body can see, and everybody admits, 
that the course pursued on the Continent 
cannot be continued for five years longer 
by any Government. Everybody admits 
that Austria is bankrupt. When some 
time ago I went to the London Tavern, 
and spoke against the Austrian loan, 
and denounced the Austrians as bank¬ 
rupts, there was an attempt to oppose 
my views; but everbody now admits 
that their bankruptcy is inevitable. 
Well, let us take France, Prussia, and 
Russia; and they too, through their 
enormous military establishments, are 
hastening to bankruptcy and revolution. 
And it is by peace meetings, by peace 
congresses at Frankfort and elsewhere,— 
it is by such means alone that attention 
is awakened to the danger of such a 
course ; and by such means alone,—by 
public meetings, and agitation, and 
public discussion, is any great reform 
effected in the affairs of the world. 

But when we call attention to these 
evils, we do not leave them without 
suggesting practical remedies. We say 
to the Governments of the world, ‘ Can¬ 
not you find some other way of settling 
your disputes, and for guaranteeing 
peace, than by an array of enormous 
armaments ? Cannot you recognise 
between Governments the principle of 
submitting your disputes to the arbitra¬ 
tion of a neutral party ? ’ In France and 
England, and other countries, instead of 




i8so. 


PEACE. I. 


keeping up those gigantic forces in time 
of peace, cannot the Governments of the 
world in 1850 devise some other means 
of providing something like a guarantee 
for the continuance of peace ? There is 
no present quarrel between France and 
England—no tender question, and no 
claim that ought to interrupt the profes¬ 
sions of eternal peace and concord which 
are made by both parties. Yet we are 
told that something might arise which 
would cause a war; and, therefore, the 
country must prepare for war. But the 
contingency of a dispute arising might 
be prepared for by other means than 
war; and we, the advocates of peace, 
say, Let the Governments refer their 
disputes to the arbitration of some im¬ 
partial umpire. I ask Governments to 
do in the case of a nation what we always 
do in the case of individuals. If a 
Frenchman living in London commits 
a crime, the law—and Englishmen may 
be proud of it—allows him to claim to 
be tried by a jury, half of whom are 
foreigners. Now, all I want is, that the 
nations of England and France, and 
other countries, should carry the same 
principle into operation, and that when 
they have a dispute—when they charge 
a country, as Greece had been, of being 
in debt to another, and when that country 
denies the justice of the claim (and in 
the case of Greece subsequent events 
prove she is right), then let the matter 
be referred to arbitrators, instead of 
sending out a dozen ships of war, and 
saying, if another nation does not take 
our account of the matter, we will com¬ 
pel them. Let two arbitrators, one for 
each nation disputing, be appointed; 
and if the two cannot agree, let them 
appoint an umpire to settle the dispute 
according to reason and the facts of the 
case. Thus would be avoided the re¬ 
course now had to enormous forces. Is 
there anything so Utopian in this? The 
Peace Congress came to a resolution to 
recommend the nations of the world to 
enter on a system of disarmament. I have 
referred to this topic again and again, 
and I have learned that the only way 
to instruct rpen is to do with them 


S *3 

as with children, and to repeat the 
lesson. 

We have a Treaty with the United 
States, according to which only a certain 
number of ships of war are to be main¬ 
tained by each nation on the limitary 
lakes—only one on each lake. Now, 
what has been the consequence ? Why, 
from the moment of the existence of 
that treaty, both parties have totally 
disregarded the maintenance of the force 
altogether, and there is not at the present 
moment more than one crazy English 
hulk on all these lakes, and I do not 
believe that the Americans have one at 
all ! This occurred from the moment 
our country showed that she had no 
desire to run with America that race of 
national rivalry which Sir F. Head 
would persuade England to run with 
France, fitting out a new fleet at Ports¬ 
mouth, to be followed by an increased 
French fleet at Cherbourg, and by an 
augmentation, I suppose, of 100,000 
men to the military force of each nation. 
If England enters with an honest spirit 
into a treaty with France, similar to 
thacwhich exists with America, it would, 
if accepted, be advantageous to the 
interests of both countries; and if we 
have not got a Minister for Foreign 
Affairs who understands his business, and 
would enter into such an arrangement, 
then let the English people, who under¬ 
stand their business, advertise for a 
Foreign Minister, who, instead of fol¬ 
lowing old courses, shall be alive to the 
spirit of the age, who shall be deemed 
worthy to have lived in the age of electric 
telegraphs, railways, and steamboats. 
It would simplify our foreign policy, if 
we entered into arrangements with other 
countries, binding ourselves by previous 
treaties, in case of dispute and hot blood, 
not to have recourse to war or violence, 
but to submit to arbitration. If I could 
only get the people of England and 
Wales to feel alive to this question, and 
to deal with the scorners of the peacemen 
as they deserved—with that contempt 
which Englishmen are sure, in the long 
run, to throw on such offenders,—if I 
could only get these views implanted 

33 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 14, 


5 T 4 

into the minds of the people, it would 
not be long before we should have 
another Sir Robert Peel to carry them 
out. 

I cannot mention the name of Sir 
Robert Peel without expressing my deep 
regret, not for the fame of that states¬ 
man, —■ for, probably, under all the 
circumstances, he could not have died 
at a moment more favourable for his 
fame, — but for the sake of his country. 
There are many reasons why we should 
regret that we have lost such a man at 
such a time. I cannot be expected, of 
course, to endorse the acts of Sir R. 
Peel’s long political career. Sir R. Peel 
was in early life placed, before, probably, 
he had the choice of his own career, in 
a wrong political groove; but that such 
a man, after forty years’ training in an 
adverse political school, should at the 
end of that time have taken the course 
he did, entitling himself, as he had done, 
by the last act of his political life, to the 
lasting veneration of his countrymen, 
makes me firmly hope that England 
has great future benefits to expect 
from the wise counsels of that great 
statesman. On those questions on 
which I am now addressing you, and 
which are agitated by the Peace Con¬ 
gress, I watched Sir R. Peel’s course 
during the last three years, and, as my 
friends know, predicted that Sir R. Peel 
was preparing gradually to do for his 
country what he had done on another 
question, only secondary in importance 
to that advocated by the Peace Congress. 
It was in 1851 that Sir R. Peel was the 
first to recommend that agitation in 
which the Peace party and I are now 
en g a g e< i. That statesman then referred 
to the numerous standing armies, to the 
danger caused thereby to the finances, 
and to the consequent risk of revolutions 
incurred by the Governments of Europe; 
and he said that those Governments 
ought to endeavour to come to terms on 
the basis of a mutual reduction of the 
military establishments; and he declared, 
emphatically, that he hoped the Govern¬ 
ments would take that course; or, if 
not, he hoped the different communities 


of Europe would so spread their opinions 
as to force their Governments to adopt 
that plan. I have frequently referred 
to that declaration as being a direct 
incentive to the course which is adopted 
at peace meetings; and I claim for the 
peace meetings the sanction and approval 
—nay, I claim for them the origination 
of the most practical statesman that ever 
lived. 

But this is not all. In the House of 
Commons, on the 12th of March, 1850, 
Sir R. Peel spoke as I will presently 
read ; and I well remember the feeling 
of surprise, not unmingled with a feeling 
of dissatisfaction, which pervaded that 
peculiar assembly when the words were 
delivered. I remember, when they were 
finished, that half-a-dozen of the Mem¬ 
bers sitting round me, congratulated me 
on having again got Sir R. Peel’s assist¬ 
ance for a movement in favour of re¬ 
ducing expenditure. The words of Sir 
Robert Peel, to which I now allude, 
were these :— 

‘ For what was said about the compara¬ 
tive lightness of taxation I care nothing, 
for there are many taxes pressing on the 
energies of the country and diminishing the 
comforts of the humbler classes ; and their 
repeal, if it could be effected with good 
faith and public security, will be of ines¬ 
timable advantage to the nation. Nay, 
more ; I will say, that in time of peace, 
you must, if you mean to retrench, incur 
some risks. If in time of peace you must 
have all the garrisons of our colonial pos¬ 
sessions in a state of complete efficiency— 
if you must have all our fortifications kept 
in a state of perfect repair,—I venture to 
say that no amount of annual expenditure 
will be sufficient; and if you adopted the 
opinions of military men, who say that they 
would throw upon you the whole responsi¬ 
bility in the event of a war breaking out, 
and some of our valuable possessions being 
lost, you would overwhelm this country 
with taxes in time of peace. The Govern¬ 
ment ought to feel assured that the House 
of Commons would support them if they 
incurred some responsibility with respect 
to our distant colonial possessions by run¬ 
ning a risk for the purpose of effecting a 
saving. Bellum para , si pacem velis, is a 
maxim generally received, as if it were im- 




1850. 


PEACE. I. 


possible to contest it; yet a maxim that 
admits of more contradiction, or should be 
accepted with greater reserve, never fell 
from the lips of man.’ 

When Sir R. Peel delivered those 
words, discrediting the authority of mili¬ 
tary men, he spoke in an assembly and 
especially from a side of the House 
where the military spirit was dominant; 
and he must have felt those sentiments 
strongly, or he never could have delivered 
them in such an assembly and in such an 
atmosphere. And orators should not 
forget that statesman’s advice, when in 
after-dinner speeches they propose ‘ the 
Army and Navy,’ and declare that to 
have peace it was necessary to be pre¬ 
pared for war. That was not Sir R. 
Peel’s opinion ; and yet I dare say that 
many of the men who utter the sentiment 
about being prepared for war would 
have shouted for Sir R. Peel, and would 
subscribe for a monument to him. 

I remember, not long ago, a speech 
delivered by a sheriff of London at the 
sheriffs’ inaugural dinner. I do not 
remember the sheriff’s name; in fact, 
very few persons ever remember the 
names of the sheriffs of London, and as 
the gentleman I allude to happened to 
be sheriff and alderman of the City of 
London,—a very corrupt corporation,— 
it is not to be wondered at that his name 
has escaped my recollection, though it 
has been inserted in the columns of that 
veiy best champion of peace— Punch, 
which ought to be seen on the table of 
every one, both in wealthy drawing-rooms 
and humble cottages. This gentleman 
hiccuped out a great deal of incoherent 
nonsense about Cobden, and also said 
that he was in favour of armaments to 
preserve peace, and called the principles 
of the Peace Society ‘ Utopian,’ for that 
is the standard word. Now, what has 
the Corporation of London lately done? 
I must say I had not supposed they 
possessed so much wit—I had not given 
them credit for having a joke in their 
whole body. Why, they have changed 
their programme of that great children’s 
raree-show on Lord Mayor’s-day, and, 
instead of exhibiting men in armour, 


5iS 

they provide in their stead a figure em¬ 
blematical of Peace, followed by repre¬ 
sentations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and 
America. No doubt that was intended 
as a sly vote of censure on this talkative 
alderman and sheriff; but it was too 
bad that, after eating his dinner, they 
should have gone away and served him 
such a scurvy trick as that. It was said 
that the peace which the Peace Society 
was aiming at, and the reduction of 
armaments, was Utopian and quite im¬ 
practicable ; but, somehow or other, I 
find that everybody comes before the 
public with the pretence of being a lover 
of peace, and endeavours to point out 
facts in the world with the view of show¬ 
ing that we were going to arrive at peace. 
But if it is said, ‘Then let us gather 
these facts together; let us make use of 
the railways, and visit different parts, as 
Paris and Frankfort had been visited, 
and let us invite people to talk over the 
question of peace, and see if it cannot 
be forwarded,’ then these people turn 
round, denounce and ridicule the peace- 
men, and affect a great deal of scorn 
for their reasonings, while they very 
probably desire peace in their hearts a 
great deal less than they pretend. 

There is a large portion of the com¬ 
munity which does not want peace. 
War is the profession of some men, and 
war, therefore, is the only means for 
their occupation and promotion in their 
profession. 15,000,000/. sterling are 
spent on military establishments. That 
is a considerable sum of money spent 
upon classes who are not very likely to 
be favourable to peace. Read the United 
Service and the Army and Navy Gazette. 
Do you think that these publications are 
intended to promote peace? Do they 
not seek the opportunity of exciting 
jealousies,—pointing to the ships of war 
of foreign countries, and saying, ‘There 
are more guns there, and, therefore, we 
must have more ’ ? Do they not endea¬ 
vour to produce that rivalry of establish¬ 
ments and armaments which is always 
tending of necessity to hostile feelings 
and hostile acts ? Again, there is a large 
portion of the continental community 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 14, 


516 

which is similarly situated to the portion 
of which I have just spoken in this 
country. Four millions of men—the 
flower of Europe—from twenty to thirty- 
three years of age, are under arms, living 
in idleness. There are often no men in 
the country parts ; the women are doing 
their farm work, and toiling up to their 
knees in manure, and amidst muck and 
dirt, at the age of thirty and forty. 
They may be constantly seen thus em¬ 
ployed, tanned and haggard, and looking 
hardly like the fair sex. They do this, 
in order that the muscle and strength of 
the country should be clothed in military 
coats, and should carry muskets on their 
shoulders—a scandal to a civilised and 
Christian age. Thus there is a large 
body of men who do not desire peace. 
I do not believe that peace is their object. 

I do not know why they entered the army 
if they did not want war. This is their 
employment, and they must be idle if 
they have not war ; and, therefore, it is 
not unfair to argue that they are not 
altogether favourable to peace, whatever 
they may say; and consequently I do 
not believe that all those men who use 
these cant phrases about peace care 
for it. 

I have endeavoured to show that I 
have a practical object in view, and that 
the members of the Peace Society have 
some sanction from practical men for 
what is sought after by this Society. 
What do other men propose—those most 
opposed to the Peace Society ? Do they 
say that the system which we are oppos¬ 
ing will last for ever ? Why, every man 
admits that it cannot last five years. Is 
there any person prepared to reverse 
this system of enormous expenditure and 
ruinous establishments—of waste, bank¬ 
ruptcy, and ultimate revolution ? The 
conduct which the Governments are pur¬ 
suing is calculated to shake the faith of 
the mass of the people in the very ex¬ 
istence of Government—marching and 
countermarching troops—and all for mere 
parade and the exhibition of armed men. 
It seems to me as if there ought to have 
been a battle long ago on the Continent, 
and then, I think, there would have been 


more chance that this turmoil would have 
been put an end to. For what purpose 
does this marching and countermarching 
of troops serve, unless the secret and 
covert design of bringing the system into 
disrepute ? And it is coming into disre¬ 
pute. And if we could only prevent the 
Governments from ‘ raising the wind ’ 
(as Mr. Richard said), we should put an 
end to it. 

I now come to another point of our 
Peace doctrine, and that is, that we want 
to prevent people lending money to those 
bankrupt Governments in order that they 
may keep soldiers. I said, last August 
twelvemonths, that the Russian Govern¬ 
ment, about whose rich and ample re¬ 
sources so much was then uttered, could 
not make the campaign in Hungary with¬ 
out coming to London or Amsterdam 
for a loan. I was laughed at; but the 
campaign was hardly over before a loan 
was applied for, under the pretence that 
it was wanted for a railway. I denounced 
that loan as an Imperial falsehood. I 
do not mean to say that the Emperor 
knew so when he signed the decree, but 
the Emperor knows that to be the case 
now, and he ought to repudiate it. It was 
raised to pay for the atrocities perpetrated 
in the Hungarian war, not from the 
savings of Barings or Rothschilds, for 
they are not the people who lent the 
money, but from the small capitalists in 
England, who have small savings, and 
who wish to get five instead of four per 
cent. They lent that money, by which 
they as much cut the throats of the 
Hungarians and devastated their villages 
as if they had gone there and done it with 
their own hands. I was asked whether 
I, as a Free-trader, was consistent with 
my principles when I denounced this 
use of money ? I was told that a man 
had a right to lend his money without 
inquiring what it was wanted for. But 
if he knew it was wanted for a vile pur¬ 
pose, had he the right of so lending it ? 
I put this question to a City man :— 
‘ Somebody asks you to lend money to 
build houses with, and you know it is 
wanted for the purpose of building in¬ 
famous houses, would you be justified in 




1850. 


PEACE. I. 


lending the money? ’ He replied, ‘I 
would. 1 I rejoined, ‘Then I am not 
going to argue with you—you are a man 
for the police magistrate to look after; 
for if you would lend money to build 
infamous houses, you would very likely 
keep one yourself, if you could get ten 
per cent, by it.’ I say that no man has 
a right to lend money if he knows it is to 
be applied to the cutting of throats. 
The whole of this system of enormous 
armaments is built on the system of 
lending money ; and thereby there are 
concentrated into one generation those 
evils of war, which would not have been 
suffered except successive generations 
were called upon to pay for them. 

The system is indefensible, both on 
the principles of humanity and political 
economy ; and I believe the time will 
come—it is coming (for I have heard 
the principle broached in high intellec¬ 
tual places)—when future generations 
will raise the question whether they shall 
be held responsible for debts incurred, 
often for keeping their own country in 
slavery, and also for foreign wars, in 
which they can have no possible in¬ 
terest. 

We have all heard of the disturbances 
in Sleswig-Holstein ; and I join both 
with Mr. Sturge and Mr. Richard in the 
expression of opinion that our Govern¬ 
ment is heavily responsible for having 
meddled in that affair in the way in which 
it did, and in joining France, Russia, 
and Denmark in a hostile demonstration 
against Sleswig-Holstein. We have no 
business to do so ; and I could corro¬ 
borate every word used by the preceding 
speakers to the effect, that it had left a 
feeling of deep alienation among the 
whole Protestant community of Germany. 

I do not use that term with a view of 
instituting an invidious comparison in 
respect to the Roman Catholics ; but the 
Protestant part of Germany is the most 
constitutional; it is the part which has 
been, and most naturally, in sympathy 
with England ; but, in consequence of 
that proceeding of our Foreign Minister, 
deep, lasting, if not ineradicable feelings 
of alienation and indignation have been 


517 

produced against the Government and 
people of this country. 

But the point to which I wisn to refer 
is this, — Last year these two parties 
(the Danes and Sleswig-Holsteiners) 
were in collision, and then there ensued 
a suspension of arms. In the interval, 
Denmark raised a loan of 800,000/. 
That money was spent in preparation 
for bloody conflicts ; and, if it could not 
have been raised from the English or 
Dutch, I firmly believe that, from the 
destitution of the resources of Denmark, 
peace must necessarily have ensued, and 
those hostilities, which have caused so 
much devastation within the last few 
months, could not have been renewed. 
So with respect to Russia. We heard of 
the Emperor dictating to Germany at 
Warsaw. I believe that the cost of the 
visits between Petersburg and Warsaw 
has been defrayed out of the money raised 
from the English; and if that money had 
not been raised—if those 5,000,000/. had 
not been lent out—if English capitalists 
had folded their arms, or better still, 
had closed their purse-strings—if, too, 
they had lent no money for perpetrating 
atrocities in Hungary, and had declared 
that henceforth no assistance need be 
expected from them for wars and deeds 
of violence, then those armaments must 
have been reduced, and instead of the 
Czar, in consequence of being full of 
money, riding backwards and forwards 
from one city to another, he would have 
been kept at home, minding the affairs 
of his own country and not those of 
Germany, and we should have been 
saved this turmoil which will very likely 
be made an excuse next session for not 
reducing the army of this country. 

Before I sit down, let us prepare for 
what will be said of this meeting. We 
shall be called enthusiasts and Utopians, 
who think the millennium is coming. 
Now, as the gentlemen who use these 
phrases are very much at a loss for some¬ 
thing new, I will say, once for all, that 
I am not dreaming of the millennium. 

I believe that long after my time iron 
will be used to make the spear, as well 
as the pruning-hookand the ploughshare. 




SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 14, 


ft* 

I do not think the coming year is to pro¬ 
duce any sudden change in the existing 
practice, or that the millennium will be 
absolutely realised in my time ; but I 
think, if the principles of the Peace 
Society are true, we are engaged in a 
work in which conscience, and, I believe, 
Heaven itself, will find cause for appro¬ 
bation. In that course, therefore, I shall 
persevere, in spite of sneers and sarcasms. 
I believe we shall not have long to wait 
before we shall find from our opponents 
admissions that they are wrong and we 
right. I have seen some such things 
before from the same quarters on another 
question ; and I expect to hear the same 
things again, Those parties tell us that 
we must look to Free Trade and to other 
causes to accelerate the era of Peace— 
those parties who opposed Free Trade. 
But when I advocated Free Trade, do 
you suppose that I did not see its 
relation to the present question, 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 act¬ 
uated me, as my friends know, in that 
struggle. And it is because I want to 
see Free Trade, in its noblest and most 
humane aspect, have full scope in this 
world, that I wish to absolve myself 
from all responsibility for the miseries 
caused by violence and aggression, and 
too often perpetrated under the plea of 
benefitingtrade. I may at least beallowed 
to speak, if not with authority, yet cer¬ 
tainly without the imputation of trespass¬ 
ing on ground which I may not reason¬ 
ably be supposed to understand as well 
as most people, and to say, when I hear 
those who advocate warlike establish¬ 
ments or large armaments for the purpose 
of encouraging our trade in distant parts 
of the world, that I have no sympathy 
with them, and that they never shall have 
my support in carrying out such measures. 
We have nothing to hope from measures 
of violence in aid of the promotion of 
commerce with other countries. 


Away with all attempts to coerce any 
nation, whether civilised or barbarous, 
by ships of war, into the adoption of 
those principles of Free Trade, which 
we ourselves only adopted when we be¬ 
came convinced by the process of reason 
and argument that they were for our own 
interest. If we send ships to enforce by 
treaties this extension of trade, we shall 
be doing more harm than good to the 
cause we pretend to aid. Such a policy 
is calculated to react on the people, by 
imposing on them great burdens, in order 
to support those armaments by which it 
is endeavoured to force ourviewsonother 
nations. I shall have something to say 
on another occasion about China and 
Borneo. I will give some facts, and, be¬ 
fore long, I will adopt the most effectual 
mode which I can, and show the people 
of this country that they are mistaken, 
in a pecuniary point of view, when they 
think that they enforce their interests by 
ships of war or troops. Therefore, as a 
Free-trader, I oppose every attempt to 
enforce a trade with other countries by 
violence or coercion. 

I never thanked the Foreign Minister 
who came with a Treaty of Commerce 
from China, or Borneo, or St. Domingo, 
or Russia, binding them to extend their 
commerce with this country, and to relax 
their restrictions, should that Treaty be 
obtained either by force, chicanery, or 
fraud; for, depend on it, a policy so 
enforced will react, and we shall never 
make progress in the principles which 
we advocate until we leave it to other 
countries to take the course they believe 
to be best for their own interest, after 
calm consideration, and until they have 
seen by the example England had set, 
that the Free Trade adopted by her was 
beneficial to her own interests. 

Therefore, on high religious grounds, 
and on Free-trade grounds, I support 
the gentlemen who are devoting them¬ 
selves to the cause of Peace. I think 
myself that I have done very little in this 
matter, and I am ashamed when I find 
myself singled out for obloquy, which I 
do not deserve, in relation to this cause. 
I am not ashamed of the title of the 



1850. 


PEACE. I. 


“ Champion of Peace,”—I only wish I 
deserved it. I thank the gentlemen who 
have taken up this cause on all these 
grounds. I know that they consider no 
sacrifice too great in order to carry out 
their conscientious convictions. I thank 
them for it, and for the opportunity they 
have afforded me in addressing this 
meeting, and at the meetings at Frank¬ 
fort and other places, to address all the 
countries of Europe, and I entreat them 
to go on. They are the sons of parents 


5*9 

who fought the battle of Catholic Eman¬ 
cipation— (applause) —I meant to have 
said Slave Emancipation, but the cheer 
needs not to be recalled, for they were 
the friends of liberty of every kind, 
whether to the white man or to the black. 
Let them not be discouraged by sneers, 
but let them go on unfalteringly, and, as 
on the Slave Question, they will bequeath 
this struggle from father to son until as 
glorious a result will be accomplished as 
any yet recorded on the page of History. 




PEACE. 

II. 


MANCHESTER, JANUARY 27, 1853. 

[The following is one of the speeches which Mr. Cobden made with the purpose of 
disabusing the public of a panic which was common some years ago. The second 
Empire had just been established in France.] 


I confess I have listened to those 
letters from our French correspondents 
with feelings of shame and humiliation, 
— shame, that it should be deemed 
necessary by our well-wishers on the 
other side of the Channel that they should 
give us assurances that there is no in¬ 
tention on the part of France to come 
and, without provocation, to invade our 
shores; and humiliation, that there 
should have been a considerable number 
of the people of this country who could 
have been deluded by the merest child’s 
cry, the mere baby’s talk that we have 
been listening to, for the last few months, 
and that they should have believed for a 
moment that anything so absurd and all 
but impossible was going to happen. 

Now, let me just call your attention 
to the source from which those assur¬ 
ances come. The outcry that we hear in 
this country about an invasion from 
France is levelled at the present Govern¬ 
ment of France. The parties who are 
addressing us are not the partisans of 
that Government. We have had a letter 
from M. Carnot; he is not a friend of 
the present Government. I have an ex¬ 
tract here from the Journal des Debats, 
which is a pacific newspaper, not in the 
interest of Louis Napoleon, but a decided 
advocate of peace and free trade ; and 


what is the tone in which that paper 
speaks of this cry of invasion in this 
country? It says, that ‘whilst the Brit¬ 
ish journals are every day accusing our 
Government of making large augment¬ 
ations of its navy, we observe that under 
this unfounded pretence, England is 
constantly adding to its fleet and other 
armaments ; and we are led to believe 
that the English press can have no other 
object in thus declaiming against the 
imaginary armaments of France, than to 
conceal the real preparations that are 
going on in that country.’ Well, you 
have had a letter from M. Emile de 
Girardin ; he is not a partisan of the 
present Government; he was an exile 
after the last revolution, and he is ex¬ 
pressing his doubts whether the prepar¬ 
ations we are making for ‘ a disembark¬ 
ation from France without an object’— 
for, mind you, with his usual logic, he, 
in a word, has hit upon the whole point 
of this absurd outcry,—these prepara¬ 
tions, he is rather inclined to think, there 
must be something else to account for, 
than the absurd supposition that we are 
preparing for adescent from France with¬ 
out an object; because nobody has ever 
professed that there is any object; we 
have had no quarrel; there is no dispute, 
— no unsettled boundary, no Spanish 



JAN. 27, 1853. 


PEACE. II. 


521 


marriages, no Tahiti question, no Mr. 
Pritchard ; there is no quarrel at all; 
and, when I ask our invasionist friends 
what it is the French are coming here 
for, I never could hear an intelligible 
answer. Sometimes they say that some 
five thousand men are coming here to 
bum down one of our towns, and yet 
they admit these men will never go back 
again ! I am as much at a loss as M. de 
Girardin is to see any logical ground for 
any such attempt as that. 

But you may depend upon it that you 
are apt to underrate the effect of all this 
kind of menacing demonstration. The 
effect will be precisely the contrary of 
what these alarmists want. Instead of 
damaging Louis Napoleon, you will 
unite all parties in France with him as 
against England. And that is the great 
evil of such demonstrations as this,— 
you make every man in France, that has 
one atom of self-respect, or of French 
spirit in his blood,—you make him feel 
indignant that you have lowered him 
and his country to the rank of savages, 
in supposing that they are to come here 
some day, without notice, without declar¬ 
ation of war,—a thing that never hap¬ 
pened in any civilised country in the 
world; that you are assuming that it is 
going to be done, some day, without any 
fact to warrant it; and that you are 
making all the preparation which he sees 
in your ports, in order to receive those 
savages. And you find people who are 
still considered fit to be trusted in the 
management of their business, whom 
you meet in the streets every day, who 
will shake their wise heads, and tell you 
that they believe that there is some 
danger of a French invasion. Might 
not I say, ‘I think there is some danger 
of somebody attacking me in the street,’ 
—might not I, with just the same logic, 
prepare myself with a dreadnought club 
or life preserver; or, perhaps, a brace of 
pistols, if I deemed it necessary ; might 
not I make any kind of provision against 
any such imaginary danger as that ? But 
I should be no more rational in doing it 
than we are as a nation in making 
these preparations against France. 


I wish I could get some of these public 
instructors and bring them to the test of 
how far they are in earnest when they 
write in the way some of these Manchester 
papers write about a French invasion. 
Now, to my knowledge, they have been 
writing in the same way these last five 
years ; I have had them upon me ever 
since December, 1847, which is about 
five years ago. They were writing in 
the same way when Louis Philippe was 
King of the French, and when M. Guizot 
was his Prime Minister. I will not let 
them off on their protesting that all they 
want now is to guard us against a usurper 
and a despot. I say they raised that cry 
as long ago as in 1847, when Louis 
Philippe was king, as loudly as they do 
now. They have been five years in this 
state of panic and alarm ; and I say it 
is high time that such people should 
take some assurance against the conse¬ 
quences of this invasion, when it comes. 
Well, now, I am prepared, not only to 
give them that assurance on moderate 
terms, but I will put their sincerity to 
the test. Bring me that public instructor 
in your town, that has been telling you 
for the last five years, and upwards, that 
this invasion is so imminent; bring him 
to me, and I will make a proposal to 
him. If he will pay one shilling a week 
to your Infirmary, as a subscription, I 
will enter into a legal bond to pay him 
down ten thousand pounds when this 
invasion takes place. Well, but you 
sometimes have your public instructors, 
who write as though they had some 
special sources of information from 
London. 

Now, I tell all those writers in news¬ 
papers in the provinces, who have 
joined in this cry of invasion, that they 
are being heartily laughed at by those 
in London, who are profiting by the cry. 
The Government has no belief in any 
danger of a sudden invasion. I will prove 
it to you in a moment. If an invasion tool 
place without notice, our Government 
would be certainly impeached, because 
they are allowing our largest concen¬ 
trated fleet—a fleet more powerful than 
the whole American navy ;—now, I am 



522 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. 27, 


speaking deliberately when I say that we 
have a fleet before which, if every ship of 
war which the Americans have were 
brought, they could not exist for twenty- 
four hours; and that fleet is now lying at 
Malta, or amusing itself between Malta 
and Corfu (with a great expenditure on 
the part of the officers for kid gloves for 
their parties and excursions); and I say 
that if Parliament believed what the 
Government and the instructors of the 
people are saying, as though it were 
derived from some special sources of 
information, that any Government that 
ever existed in the country, and which 
was proved, if an invasion or descent on 
our shores took place, to have suspected 
it, to have anticipated it, and to have 
given a hint of it to some of those 
public instructors in the country, would 
inevitably be impeached, and deservedly 
so, for having left our largest fleet 1,200 
miles off, and at such a distance that 
it could not be collected in less than 
a month’s time. So I assure gentlemen 
in the provinces who join in the cry, 
that they are only being heartily laughed 
at for their pains, and that the Govern¬ 
ment, which may profit by the cry, is by 
no means a sharer in the panic. And 
that is one of the worst parts of the 
panic—that Governments do manage to 
tide over a session, and gain time when 
they can find silly people through the 
country who will occupy their fellow- 
citizens by such a cry as this, because 
those who would be better employed in 
urging forward the Government to do 
something, are kept trotting about the 
country to try to prevent the mischief 
which these alarmists create. Don’t you 
think, now, that I and others on this 
platform, who form humble units in the 
political world, might be better engaged, 
and might perhaps be troublesome to 
some party in the Government, if we 
were not kept on trotting about by this 
cry of an invasion ? It is a very clever 
contrivance, and is the very thing that 
despotic Governments are always seeking 
for — something to keep the country 
always in a state of agitation, from a 
fear of invasion by any other Power than 


themselves. That has been the system 
that has always been adopted from the 
very beginning of misgovernment; since 
Governments will always find not only 
silly people who will believe them and 
become their dupes, but also people who 
will perform the part of impostors to 
those dupes ; for there is quite as much 
knavery as folly at the bottom of this cry. 

Now, I think that we are playing 
very much the part of bullies in this 
matter. If I have read history to any 
purpose at all, we have some atonement 
to offer to the French people. We are 
not in a position to put our fist constantly 
in the face of the French, and accuse 
them of an intention to come and molest 
us. The last French war arose out of 
a gross and unprovoked aggression on 
our part. The last war on the Continent 
originated with us, from an oligarchical 
Government, fed from the resources of 
this great nation, but carried on against 
the interests of liberty and in the in¬ 
terests of despotism. But, after that war 
is at an end, I think we might have 
expected that if there were any com¬ 
plaints, or accusations, or suspicions, 
they would more naturally have come 
from the other side of the Channel. I 
think that, under the circumstances, 
when we investigate the origin and cha¬ 
racter of the last great French war with 
this country, it is surprising that there 
is not a greater feeling of resentment 
and indignation on the part of the 
French nation against the English. But 
are the English people in a position to 
begin again to exasperate the French 
people by accusing them of an intention 
to invade us, and of entertaining those 
base intentions against our shores, when 
the only example in the memory of 
living man, is one in which we played 
that part against them ? If there should 
be suspicion in the minds of any, it 
should be in the breasts of Frenchmen. 
If we follow the Christian maxim, of 
doing as we would that others should 
do unto us, we should try a different 
tone, and see what a little conciliation 
towards France would do. 

I will tell you what is at the bottom 




PEACE. II. 


i8 S3- 

of the whole of this cry in England 
about a French invasion. It is ignorance 
in the minds of the great masses of the 
people, as to what the real condition 
and circumstances of the French people 
are. I have told my friends who are 
met here from different parts of the 
country, and who are proposing to take 
steps for a vigorous agitation on behalf 
of peace, that the first thing they have 
to do is to spread four or five lecturers 
over the face of the land, to enlighten 
the public mind as to the state of feeling 
in France. We have no danger, it is 
admitted on all hands, from any other 
country. If it was not for this bug-bear 
of France and the French invasion, 
there would be lamentation and woe in 
some clubs in London, for I do not 
think they could have any excuse for 
keeping up so large a military and naval 
force. As to America, they do not give 
us any excuse for keeping up our navy. 
If France was out of the way, and we 
had only to look to and to be prepared 
for competition with America, or even 
with Austria or Russia, that would 
hardly afford us an B xcuse for keeping 
up our present armaments. It is France 
alone that you are threatened with 
danger from, and I say that the people 
of this country are alarmed with respect 
to France, simply because they don’t 
understand the circumstances of that 
nation; and, being in ignorance, you 
may persuade them anything. It is like 
blindfolding a man and spinning him 
round once or twice. Fie then does not 
know where he stands, and you may 
persuade him that anything in the world 
is coming to eat him up; but unbandage 
his eyes, and he is not easily frightened. 
You must go through the country with 
lecturers, deluge them with tracts, and 
show them the actual position of the 
French nation. I tell you candidly my 
firm belief is, and I am quite prepared 
to meet the consequences, that if you 
will let the people of this country know 
the whole truth as to the economical 
and social condition of the millions of 
France, instead of their fearing that the 
French people are coming to take any- 


5 2 3 

thing they possess, they will be them¬ 
selves possessed of a considerable amount 
of dissatisfaction that their own condition, 
as a mass, is not equal to that of the 
French. The French people coming 
here, like a band of pirates, to take 
what the English people have ! Why, 
you have to deal with 8,000,000 of 
landed proprietors. A very worthy 
friend of ours, who is now travelling ir. 
the south of France, and who is known 
to most of my friends about me, has 
written within the last few days to us, 
that, as the result of his inquiries and 
investigation, the condition of the rural 
population of France is very superior to 
that of the English peasantry. The 
French peasantry are the proprietors of 
the land. When the man follows his 
horse to field there, he is turning up the 
furrows upon his own soil. 

Now, do you think that is exactly 
the population to run over from their 
acres and come here on a mere ma¬ 
rauding expedition ? Our mistake is in 
judging the French people altogether 
by our own standard. It is true the 
French have not yet quite got an appre¬ 
ciation of the representative forms of 
government according to our machinery, 
and the habit of association and public 
meeting, and the freedom of the press 
which we have ; it is because it does 
not enter into French feeling to appre¬ 
ciate these things. For instance, the 
French people have no Habeas Corpus 
Act, as we have in England, to give 
them the guarantee for their personal 
liberty. We attach the utmost import¬ 
ance to the inviolability of individual 
freedom, and I think we are quite right. 
But the Freneh, though they have had 
three or four times possession of power 
in the streets, have never known one of 
their leaders, when he had absolute 
possession of their assemblies, — have 
never seen one of their democratic 
leaders getting up and inserting a funda¬ 
mental clause in their Constitution to 
give them that protection which we 
have against any arbitrary and undue 
infringement of our personal liberties. 
Again, with regard to their habits of 



JAN. 27, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


5 2 4 

association and public meeting, it does 
not enter into the ideas of the French 
people to have public meetings such as 
we have, and discuss such questions as 
we do. It is not in their habits to do it. 
No class or party in the country has used 
it or adopted it with any general success. 
And, therefore, these things which we 
prize, the French, up to this time, have 
not shown that they attach much im¬ 
portance to. Now, the time may come 
when they may have precisely the same 
feelings and views that we have with 
reference to these questions. The time 
may come. Recollect that hitherto 
they have been about fifty or sixty years 
in pretty constant and successive revolu¬ 
tions, so far as the political form of their 
Government goes. Well, but we had 
to go through a century of revolution 
before we settled down. From the 
time of the commencement of the civil 
war with Charles I. down to the time of 
our last civil war in 45, this country 
passed through a whole century of revo¬ 
lutions. Give them time, and perhaps 
at some future period the French may 
have your tastes upon those questions 
to which you attach so much import¬ 
ance. 

And now I’ll tell you the lesson I 
think we ought to learn from the French 
having parted, apparently with so little 
reluctance, from their representative 
form of government, and their freedom 
of the press; and the lesson, I say, is 
this—that we English ought to learn— 
not to stroke our beards and to thank 
Heaven we are not as other men; but 
we ought to say, ‘ Let us take care that 
our newspaper press shall be such a use¬ 
ful organ, both in the cause of morality, 
of truth, but, above all, so useful in the 
cause of international peace, that the 
popular mind shall cling to it as an 
institution, and never allow it to be in¬ 
fringed upon; and let public men, lead¬ 
ing statesmen, be so truthful in their 
representative capacities; and let them 
show patriotism enough, that the people 
shall have confidence in them, and cling 
to their representative system, and not 
abandon it as the French have done, 


because probably they have not found 
those attributes of which I am speaking.’ 
Now, what the French do, is this. 
Recollect I am now, with all submission, 
indicating what I think is the line neces¬ 
sary for peace lecturers to take, and 
whatever it is absolutely necessary to 
take, if we are to put an end to this 
howl of a French invasion. What the 
French do prize, and we don’t prize 
much, is equality in social rank. The 
French people have abolished and de¬ 
stroyed feudalism for sixty years, com¬ 
pletely. They don’t tolerate any arbi¬ 
trary rank or title, or any entails, or 
anything which can tend to give social 
inequality. They carry that principle 
of equality into their religious concerns; 
the French people won’t tolerate one 
exclusively endowed religion, even 
although you had the Church selected 
that comprises nearly the whole popula¬ 
tion. All people are treated alike in 
France. Every religion is put upon a 
perfect footing of equality. So in the 
taxation, which is the most equal, fair 
system of taxation in the world; you 
could not have in France a probate and 
legacy duty upon one description of 
property and not upon another. 

Now, I see that France could not 
have what we have in this country, 
because public opinion revolts at it. 
They would not have an hereditary 
House of Peers. Louis Napoleon would 
fall instantly—his throne would not be 
worth twenty-four hours’ purchase if he 
were to attempt anything of the kind. 
Therefore, they have their tastes, and 
we have ours. They do not understand 
our tastes;—I can vouch for it, from 
being a good deal among them, that 
they are very much puzzled at our little 
regard for this principle of equality 
which they attach so much importance 
to; but they discriminate, and they say, 
‘ We envy you your jealousy of personal 
liberty; we wish we had it; we wish no 
man might have his personal freedom 
infringed. But that is not our taste. 
We have a passion for equality—you 
have a passion for personal liberty; and 
we should be better if we perhaps inter- 




PEACE. II. 


525 


i8 53- 

change a little and share our respective 
qualities.’ 

Well, now, I say, let the English 
people be told exactly what is the con¬ 
dition of French society. Let them 
understand, when we are told the French 
are coming here to rob our banks, that 
the French have had more silver in the 
Bank at Paris than we have had of gold 
and silver in the vaults of the Bank of 
England at the time that we were treat¬ 
ing them as pirates who were coming to 
rob our Bank. Then we talk of their 
coming to carry off the various commo¬ 
dities we have in this country. There 
are more silver forks and spoons in 
France than in England, a great deal. 
If you were to go to a roadside public- 
house in France, you would get a nap¬ 
kin and a silver fork; and we know in 
all their private families the class of 
people who live in that style are much 
more numerous than they are with us; 
the spirit of equality keeps up a vast 
mass there who have not similar tastes 
or aspirations here; and, therefore, when 
we hear of the French coming to com¬ 
mit a piratical incursion upon our shores, 
we are dealing with a people who would 
not be bringing all their worldly wealth 
in their canoes, like the New Zealanders 
or the Malays, but with a people that in 
many respects are considered by the rest 
of the world more civilised than our¬ 
selves. The rest of the world imitates 
their dress, their language, their amuse¬ 
ments, and not ours. We are dealing 
with a people having more portable 
property in their country than they 
would find here. Well, then, I say, to 
tell us all that of a people that have 
never molested us within the lifetime of 
any living being, is absurd. On the 
contrary, they have a good right to 
complain of a most aggressive attack 
upon their shores on the part of our 
aristocracy sixty years ago. Well, I say 
we are placing ourselves in the attitude 
of an insolent, impudent bully that goes 
about the streets holding up both his 
fists, and trying to incite peaceable men 
to attack him. I hope that we shall not 
separate until we have organised a plan 


by which we can spread this information, 
and a good deal more, through the coun¬ 
try, in the interest of peace. 

Now, something has been said about 
the financial reformers. I cannot under¬ 
stand what a financial reformer can be 
thinking of who expects ever to get any 
reduction of Government expenditure, 
or any remission of those taxes which 
are pressing us in so many places, unless 
he can hope to effect a reduction in our 
warlike expenditure. Now, take in 
round numbers—I won’t trouble you 
with figures, but take in round numbers 
our expenditure : say eight-and-twenty 
millions annually go to pay the interest 
of the debt incurred in past wars,—I am 
sorry to say, aggressive wars; well, then, 
we have about twenty-four or twenty- 
five millions more to pay. Out of that, 
about sixteen millions go for our present 
warlike expenditure. Well, these inva- 
sionists tell us, that cannot be reduced ; 
and if the interest of the debt must be 
paid, which we all admit, there you have 
twenty-eight millions and sixteen mil¬ 
lions, which make forty-four millions, 
that must not be touched. Then the 
financial reformers find some five or six 
millions more, which make the whole 
expense of our civil Government. Ours 
is not an expensive Government, really, 
for twenty-eight millions of people. We 
can find no fault with these six or eight 
millions. But if the financial reformers 
join in this great cry for more warlike 
armaments, and give way to this red- 
herring drawn across our path in the 
shape of an invasion, then, I think, they 
ought to close their books and retire 
from business, and no longer call them¬ 
selves financial reformers. 

Now, gentlemen, if you can only de¬ 
stroy this wicked delusion, that is spread 
abroad respecting the conduct of France 
and the intentions of France, there is a 
very productive mine still to be worked 
in this large amount of military and 
naval expenditure. I won’t promise you 
that it shall be quite as productive as 
the repeal of the Corn-laws, and yet I 
really don’t know but what, if you would 
give me the amount which, by putting 




526 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. 27, 


an end to this wicked spirit of animosity 
which has crept between France and 
England, might be fairly taken from our 
warlike expenses, and let me deal with 
it in the readjustment of taxation, in the 
reduction of taxation, I think I could so 
relieve industry by removing its trammels 
in the shape of custom-houses and excise¬ 
men, that I verily believe I could give a 
new lease to trade, almost as profitable 
as that derived from the repeal of the 
Corn-laws. And if you tell me that this 
invasion cry is founded in common sense 
and reason, that we must be prepared 
with our present armaments and then 
increase them, I should be guilty of the 
grossest imposture in the world if I were 
to tell you that any appreciable diminu¬ 
tion could be made in the amount of our 
Government expenditure. You must, in 
that case, make up your mind to bear it, 
and I advise those who advocate this 
expenditure to do it without grumbling, 
and without making wry faces over it. 
I would not, if I believed what these 
people tell me ; I would pay my taxes 
with right goodwill, and be very glad 
indeed to pay my money for such security. 

Well, now, one word upon that which 
is of most vital importance in any agita¬ 
tion which may be renewed from this 
time. We are going to make this a re¬ 
vival, gentlemen ; this is to be a new 
start. Now, you will all remember—I 
am sure my friend, Mr. Sturge, will—in 
fact, he has said as much to me this very 
day himself, and, therefore, I need not 
appeal to him to confirm what I am going 
to say,—no taunts ever thrown upon me 
have ever, to this moment, that I am 
aware of, led me to open my mouth to 
say that I disavowed the principles upon 
which the Peace Society is founded, 
and that I don’t profess to go the 
lengths which the members of the Peace 
Society go. I have been told, I confess 
candidly, by political friends as well as 
political enemies, that I was doing my¬ 
self a great deal of harm by allowing it 
to be thought that I was opposed to all 
defensive armaments. My answer has 
been :—If anybody believes that of me, 
and chooses to make that a reproach to 


me, I don’t suppose that if I disabused 
him it would do much good, for he would 
be sure to find something else, to invent 
something else; and, besides, I add, I 
have so much respect for those gentlemen 
who belong to the Peace Society, and 
see that they are doing so much good, 
that I don’t feel disposed at all to say 
anything that should appear to be con¬ 
strued to imply anything like a slight or 
disapproval of their conduct. But it is 
very well known to my friend Mr. Sturge, 
and others with whom I have acted,— 
and who know me very well, that 
although I am as anxious as they are to 
put an end to war at once and for ever, 
and see universal peace, yet that I was 
not educated in the principles of the 
Society of Friends, and it is generally to 
our education that we are indebted for 
our principles. And I have never avowed 
—I should be hypocritical if I avowed— 
that I entertained the opinion, that, if 
attacked, if molested in an unprovoked 
manner, I would not defend myself from 
such an act of aggression. Nobody, I 
presume, who wishes to do me justice, 
ever dreamed that I would do so. But 
it was not necessary, -because I found 
every one bullying and crying, ‘ We will 
remind them of Waterloo ; we will sing 
“ Rule Britannia ; ” we will remind them 
of Trafalgar and the Nile ; ’—it was not 
necessary I should join in reminding 
them of that. But I hold opinions 
which are held by the great body of my 
countrymen, and an unprovoked attack 
would find, I dare say, as resolute a 
resistance from me as from many of those 
who are now crying out in a panic, and 
who, I suspect, would be very likely to 
run away from the enemy. 

Now, the Peace Society has just as 
tolerant views towards me as I have 
towards them. The Peace Society has 
never attempted to coerce me into their 
principles of non-resistance. I must say 
I have never found them attempting to 
make a proselyte of me. They perfectly 
understand what my views are on this 
subject,—that I will put an end to war 
if I can, but will submit to no injustice 
if I can prevent it. Now, it is intended 



PEACE. II. 


1853 - 

from this time that we shall enlarge 
the scope of this movement. We have 
met this morning, and we have had 
a gathering which has reminded me of 
the good old time of the League. I 
have seen at the very outset of this agita¬ 
tion noble-minded men put down their 
names for a sum of money which we 
were glad to wind up with in our League 
agitation after five years’ struggle—I 
have seen 500/. put down to one name 
this morning ; and it is proposed that 
there shall be not a new society, because 
the Peace Congress Association forms 
the common ground on which all men 
may co-operate. We don’t propose to 
found any new society, but we intend to 
extend the operations of that body which 
was founded when we began the Peace 
Congress which visited the Continent, 
and also sat in London. We intend that 
there shall be a more abundant supply 
of the sinews of war placed in the hands 
of your committee by the addition of 
some other names in Manchester and 
elsewhere ; and we hope to set at work, 
not only with a machinery for inundat¬ 
ing the country with printed papers for 
its information and instruction, but we 
hope to set four oV five lecturers to work 
in visiting every borough in the country, 
and see whether we cannot counteract 
the poison that is being infused into the 
minds of the people. When I met one 
of my friends in the streets of Manchester 
yesterday, he said, ‘Why, you have 
come at a very inopportune time for 
your Peace meeting; for everybody is 
in a panic, and thinks you wrong.’ I 
said, ‘ Why, that is the very reason why 
we are here ; there never was a time yet 
when it was so necessary for the Peace 
party to redouble their efforts as at 
present.’ And I venture to predict that 
the creation of the militia, and the pre¬ 
sent cry for an increase of our arma¬ 
ments, will give a date for the downfall 
of this very system which we condemn. 
This insane and wicked attempt at mis¬ 
leading and exasperating the people will 
recoil upon its authors—there will be 
from this time but the beginning of a re¬ 
action ; and we won’t fail to profit by it. 


52? 

Then our lecturers and our tracts will 
be directed to disabuse the public mind, 
in the first place, of the impression 
which is created with respect to the 
intentions of France. That is the first 
thing to be done, because there’s where 
the danger is. Then let them deal with 
the economical view of the question—I 
mean the pressure of the enormous 
burdens on the industry of this country. 
Let our lecturers go and show what each 
town pays—why, I heard it stated that 
Manchester has to pay 200,000/. as its 
share for our past wars, and for our 
present preparations. Let them go and 
show in all our towns and boroughs 
what are our economical objects. But 
don’t let us lose sight of the still higher 
motives for peace. I have always been 
of opinion that the mainspring of this 
movement must be with those men who 
look beyond temporary concerns of any 
kind—who, instead of viewing this as a 
pounds, shillings, and pence question, 
or even a question of physical suffering, 
have an eye to the eternal interests 
involved in it. I say these are the men 
who are the mainspring of this move¬ 
ment. If anything be done to destroy 
the energy, or check the zeal, or to wound 
the consciences of those men who, from 
1815 to the present time, when there was 
little attention paid to the question, kept 
the sacred lamp burning in the midst of 
contempt and contumely—if we do any¬ 
thing to disparage these men, I would 
not give a button for the prospect of this 
movement. And, therefore, our lecturers 
and tracts and publications must not 
only advocate the cause of peace on the 
ground of religious duty and the interests 
of morality, but they must not say one 
word that shall wound the convictions of 
those men who conscientiously believe 
in the inviolability of human life, and 
who would not resist to the death even 
to save their own existence. 

Now, I know well that our opponents 
will try to make it appear that it is 
very inconsistent for men to co-operate 
together with such different objects, and 
for those who call themselves members 
of the Society of Friends to co-operate 



528 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. 27, 


with others who stop short of their prin¬ 
ciple. Well, that is a new doctrine, at 
all events. It was not so when the French 
war broke out. I find that then the 
Society of Friends co-operated with 
Mr. Fox and his colleagues of the Whig 
party in trying to prevent that most un¬ 
righteous and most unhappy war of 
the French revolution. I find that Mr. 
Gurney, of Norwich, corresponded con¬ 
stantly with Mr. Fox in the House of 
Commons, and that Mr. Fox corre¬ 
sponded with Mr. Gurney, entreating him 
to get up a county meeting in Norfolk, 
and encouraging him to get up numerous 
petitions from Norwich; but I certainly 
never heard anybody among the Whig 
party saying that Mr. Fox was inconsist¬ 
ent in co-operating with Mr. Gurney to 
prevent that dreadful war, or saying that 
Mr. Gurney sacrificed his principles in 
lending his help to Mr. Fox; although, 
if they had come together and sought 
out their points of difference instead of 
seeking out their points of union, they 
would have found, very likely, that their 
principles were quite as opposite, as the 
principles I hold would be found if com¬ 
pared with those of my friend Mr. Sturge. 
But we shall not have from the present 
Ministry, I think, any cavilling—no, nor 
from their organs of the press either; we 
shall not, I should think, have any cavil¬ 
ling or criticising as to men co-operating 
who don’t agree on all points. 

I recollect that during the debate on 
the Militia Bill, a certain noble Lord, 
who is now filling a very important 
office in the present Government, some¬ 
how picked up a pamphlet, written by a 
gentleman to show the inconsistency of 
a clergyman joining a rifle club, and the 
object of the writer was to show that the 
taking of human life at all, under any 
circumstances, was inconsistent with a 
belief of the New Testament; but who, 
being pushed by his adversary to the 
logical consequences of his own argu¬ 
ment, made sundry admissions which, to 
those who have not adopted these views, 
appeared somewhat absurd. Well, this 
noble Lord, I say, got this pamphlet, 
and very dexterously turned this pam¬ 


phlet, written by this gentleman, who, I 
dare say, was very consistent and very 
honest in what he wrote—he turned its 
contents against us who were opposing 
the militia. Well, that noble Lord is 
now filling an important office in the 
Government of Lord Aberdeen. I think 
I remember when the Earl of Aberdeen 
was Foreign Secretary under Sir R. Peel, 
that that noble Lord, from 1841 to 1846, 
employed a vast deal of his time, when in 
opposition, in criticising and condemning 
in no very measured terms, the principles 
upon which Lord Aberdeen’s foreign 
policy was carried out. But I suppose 
the noble Lord must now have changed 
all his views on foreign policy since he 
took office under Lord Aberdeen ; or if 
he has not, I suppose now that he will 
contend that it is not impossible for men 
to co-operate together without having 
identical views, and without being ready 
to go to the same extent in their views 
upon every question. If that be the case, 

I should hope that the noble Lord will, 
from the exigencies of his present situa¬ 
tion, have learnt toleration for others, 
and that we shall hear no more of those 
taunts against men in the House of 
Commons who advocate the reduction 
of our armaments, or who resist the 
increase of those armaments, and who 
still may no more be identified with all 
the views of the Society of Friends than 
the noble Lord would be with all the 
foreign policy of the Earl of Aberdeen. 

Gentlemen, our object here is business. 
You are here, from all parts of the coun¬ 
try ; and we have made a beginning in 
the essential part of our business this 
morning. At the meeting that has been 
held since the morning meeting, I think 
some four or five thousand pounds have 
been subscribed. It is proposed that it 
should be made up to ten thousand 
pounds, and that we go to work at once. 
Now, let us tell those people who have 
fancied they have it all their own way, for 
sometime, in calling out for more soldiers, 
and in threatening us with a French in¬ 
vasion, that we are going to have a good 
deal to say upon that question, and they 
may expect to meet us in every borough 





i*S3- 


PEACE. II. 


?99 


and town in the kingdom. I presume 
that our friends who are here will take 
charge of counties ; for instance, suppose 
my friend Mr. Bowley would take charge 
of Gloucester,—I was going, almost, as 
a challenge to him, to take charge of a 
county myself; but I certainly think that 
all those who are, as I am, imbued with 
the conviction that the present is a most 
critical time in the cause of Peace, should 
bestir themselves now. I hope they will, 
and that they will be ready, not only to 
give their time to it, in all parts of the 
kingdom, but that they will subscribe the 
sinews of war ; and if it be only known 
through France that in Manchester, in 


the centre of the Free-trade agitation, 
surrounded by the very men who won 
that battle, there are men here now who 
are prepared to commit themselves, ay, 
and to commit liberally of their fortunes, 
to the agitation of this Peace question, 
and to the disabusing the minds of the 
people of this country as to the inten¬ 
tions and as to the condition of the 
French people,—I believe that if this be 
known in France, it will have more effect 
than anything that could possibly be done 
to counteract the mischievous effects 
which are being produced by those 
publications which are now issuing from 
the press. 




POLICY 


OF THE 

WHIG GOVERNMENT. 


MANCHESTER, JANUARY 23, 1851. 


[The most important or engrossing public business discussed in the Session of 1850 was 
the dispute between the Foreign Office and the kingdom of Greece in the affair of 
Pacifico. Towards the end of the year occurred what was called the Papal Aggression, 
the Pope having divided England into dioceses. This act caused great excitement, 
and a law was passed, under the name of the 1 Ecclesiastical Titles Act,’ prohibiting 
the Roman Catholic prelates from adopting territorial designations. From the 
commencement the Act was a dead letter. In the following speech Mr. Cobden 
commented on the apathy of the Government of Lord Russell.] 


It used to be my practice, when I was 
agitating with my friend Bright, to stipu¬ 
late that I should speak before him, and 
I need not tell you why. In entering 
this room to-night, I was under the same 
difficulty that he has expressed. I was 
not quite aware of the character of the 
present meeting; but when I looked 
round upon the countenances of the 
gentlemen assembled, I perfectly under¬ 
stood the character of the meeting. It 
comprises, I can vouch for it from per¬ 
sonal knowledge, the pith and marrow 
of the Reform and Free-trade party in 
South Lancashire. It comprises men 
who worthily represent those who cannot 
be present in this room,—men without 
whose co-operation no election can be 
carried in South Lancashire, Manchester, 
or Salford, and against whose opposition 
it is equally important to know that no 
victory can be won. I appear here to¬ 
night as a spectator and visitor, to be a 
witness of your reception of those who 
represent you in Parliament. I am glad 


to have had the opportunity of beholding 
the cordial, the kind, and the flattering 
reception with which you have greeted 
them. It is right they should be so 
received by you. They are the men who 
stand the brunt of abundance of abuse; 
they have to meet detraction coming 
from your own city, and professing to 
express your own sentiments. The shafts 
of calumny, the mean insinuations of 
base motives, are continually flung at 
them—those unfair weapons of political 
warfare which are never resorted to 
except when men are either conscious of 
a bad cause, or acting solely from per¬ 
sonal pique and spite. This is the abuse 
and this is the calumny with which these 
men have to contend, not only in the 
arena where they have to fight your 
battles; but I repeat it, in the very city 
which they represent, whose best senti¬ 
ments they express. It is right, when 
they have to bear the brunt of such 
attacks, that they should, when they 
meet you, receive the reward which you 



JAN. 23, 1831. POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 


bestow upon them. But I, for my part, 
come here, not to answer to you for my 
conduct in Parliament, nor to share the 
tribute of respect and gratitude which 
you have bestowed upon them; it is as 
a listener and spectator that I rise here, 
at half-past ten o’clock, to say a few 
words; for, after the speeches you have 
just heard, I should be doing great in¬ 
justice not only to you but to myself if 
I were to attempt long to arrest your 
attention. 

This has been called a meeting to talk 
over all sorts of subjects. Now I am not 
going to deal in vague generalities. I 
do not mean to say that anybody who 
preceded me has done so, for they have 
been special enough; but I will not 
range the wide topics of political contro¬ 
versy. I will say, generally, that after 
we succeeded in the Free-trade contro¬ 
versy, I set myself a certain task in public 
life. I thought that the natural and col¬ 
lateral consequence of Free trade was 
first to endeavour to give the people, along 
with physical comfort and prosperity, 
improved intellectual and moral advant¬ 
ages. I thought that the country which 
had bargained for itself to enter into the 
lists of competition with the wide world, 
seeking no favour, but asking only for a 
fair field and free competition, would 
set about to economise its resources, and 
in every way to attempt to mitigate a 
load of taxation which must impede 
the career of any nation that is unduly 
burdened in its competition with more 
favoured countries. 1 thought that, when 
we had said, * We offer to trade with the 
whole world, and we invite the whole 
world to trade with us,’ by that very 
declaration we told the wide world we 
sought peace and amity with them. 
Entertaining these views, I set myself 
the task, as a public man, of endeavour¬ 
ing, by every effort which, in my humble 
capacity, I could bring to bear, to stand 
prominently forward as the advocate of 
education, peace, and retrenchment. I 
do not come here to enter into a discus¬ 
sion on these questions, each one worthy 
of an essay by itself; but I will say this, 
that whilst upon all these subjects we 


have met with keen opposition, and upon 
two with obloquy and derision, I see such 
progress making, and made, as will en¬ 
courage me to persevere in the advocacy 
of these principles with renewed and 
redoubled efforts. I find education as¬ 
suming a prominence and importance, 
even by the admission of those who, until 
lately, have been opposed to it in every 
form, that I cannot have a doubt in my 
mind, that public opinion will be brought 
to bear on that topic with such irresist¬ 
ible force, that, ere lor.g, we shall find 
a solution for this, which is one of the 
most difficult problems of our social 
existence. I find the question of peace, 
even in the eyes of those who have been 
attempting to ridicule its advocates, has 
become a leading topic of the day. 
Those who have derided us for helping 
forward the movement in favour of peace, 
do not hesitate to signalise this as an age 
which has the pleasing advantage over 
all preceding ages, of being character¬ 
ised by symptoms which indicate that 
we are approaching an era when peace 
will become the maxim of the whole 
world. I find that what I told you in 
the Free Trade Hall, just three years 
ago,—that we might live to see the time 
when the expenditure which sufficed for 
1835 would suffice again — is in process 
of being realised. We have already 
made such progress, that some four or 
five millions of reduction in our expend¬ 
iture has taken place. I have no doubt 
that further retrenchments are going on 
at this very moment; and I now repeat, 
not only my conviction that we may 
return to the expenditure of 1835, but 
that we shall, ere long, attain that point, 
and that we shall not stop even there. 

As fiscal questions will engage a good 
deal of attention in the ensuing Parlia¬ 
ment, I would have you draw a rigorous 
distinction between two questions which 
are very often jumbled together, causing 
great confusion in the public mind. I 
mean the difference between a surplus 
caused by increased revenue, and a 
surplus occasioned by reduced expend¬ 
iture. The Government comes forward 
with a surplus of 2,000,000/., arising 




532 


IAN. 23 , 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


from an increase in the receipts of the 
various existing taxes ; and the Govern¬ 
ment is then too apt to take credit to 
itself for the great merit of having 
effected the superabundant revenue. 
They do not tell you, and you are too 
apt to forget it, that this surplus is 
merely the effect of your having given 
out of your pockets 2,000,000/. more 
into the hands of the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer in one year than you did in 
the last year; and then the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer tells you, ‘ I have 
2,000,000/. more than I estimated, I 
will return it to you. ’ ‘ Thank you for 

nothing,’ is all you should ever say for 
that. But I wish that when the Chan¬ 
cellor of the Exchequer brings forward 
his Budget, you would look critically to 
the amount of the reduction of his 
Estimates for the next year’s expenditure 
as compared with the Estimates of last 
year. If, in the ensuing session, the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer does that 
which we may do, bring forward a re¬ 
duction in our establishments, then you 
may leave an estimated surplus over the 
expenditure of next year of nearer 
5,cxx>,ooo/. than 2,000,000/. The surplus 
that is now being estimated is upon the 
present year’s Estimates. I want to 
see the next year’s Estimates and the 
Budget, that we may judge of the 
Government by their Estimates, and 
not by any revenue they may have 
reached. I am not going into any 
tedious fiscal argument to-night. I only 
want to take this opportunity of saying 
two words upon a question which has 
been already alluded to. I have not 
since the close of Parliament addressed 
any audience upon general political 
topics. I have addressed peace meet¬ 
ings ; I have addressed meetings of 
freehold land societies; I have ad¬ 
dressed education meetings ; but I have 
addressed no meeting where so wide 
a range of discussion and observation 
has been permitted as is now open 
to us in this assembly. I very much 
regret it, because I should like to say a 
few words upon a controversy which 
lias been raging in this country for two 


or three months, and to which if I did 
not refer I should be guilty of cowardice, 
seeing it is always my practice to deal 
with the prominent topics of the day. 
In these few words I beg to say I speak 
to you solely as a politician. For the 
last two or three months there has not 
been a calm in this country. We have 
heard of a great political calm, but 
there has been no calm. On the con¬ 
trary, there has been an agitation. It 
has, I admit, been mainly sectional, but 
it has been widespread, and it has 
almost exclusively occupied the atten¬ 
tion of the leading public prints. 

I need not tell you that the question 
is that which is called the ‘ Papal 
Aggression.’ The remark I wish to 
make is, that the discussion of this 
topic, as a political topic, has overlaid, 
arrested, and smothered for a time 
every other political topic. It is well 
known that in this country the public 
mind entertains but one question at a 
time ; therefore the first remark I wish 
to make is, that the discussion of this 
topic, as a political topic, has prevented 
the public mind from occupying itself 
with fiscal questions, and questions 
affecting reform in the representation, 
and other questions which politicians 
have had for many years at heart, so 
that we approach the meeting of Parlia¬ 
ment without the opportunity being 
afforded, or taken, by the country, of 
signalling to the Government the views 
we take upon those questions. I wish 
you to bear in mind that when we meet, 
ere another fortnight, in Parliament, our 
time will then, I fear, be very much 
occupied with the discussion of this same 
question; for, if we may believe Mr. 
Hugh Stowell in what he told us at a 
very large assembly, every political 
question, whether fiscal, social, or re¬ 
formatory, must be suspended until this 
one great question be settled by the 
House of Commons. What, I want to 
ask, is this demand ? Is this a question 
that can be settled by politicians? I 
speak as a politician. I may settle it 
in my own mind as a Protestant, and as 
a Protestant I may have my own opinions. 



POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 


533 


1851. 

I have my own opinions, for it is every¬ 
body’s duty to have his own opinions, 
and if he has an aggressive opponent, I 
doubt if it be not his duty to defend 
actively the opinion he entertains—al¬ 
ways, of course, as an individual. But 
I want to ask, if there is any reason 
why religious questions should not be 
removed out of the domain of politics, 
just as they are in the United States of 
America? Lord Carlisle, when he, I 
will not say descended from his seat in 
the Cabinet to deliver an address to the 
Mechanics’ Institution of Leeds, but 
when he honoured himself by coming 
out of the Cabinet for that purpose, 
made a remark which, coming at the 
time it did, I think, expressed more 
than the ordinary meaning of the words, 
when he said, ‘ I confess I do envy the 
complete toleration which exists in the 
United States.’ I think that was a 
significant expression, and might be 
taken, probably, to justify those who 
believe in the rumour, that the Cabinet 
is not quite united upon the question of 
Papal Aggression. In the United States, 
the Pope may appoint bishops whenever 
he pleases; he may parcel out that vast 
Continent into as many dioceses as he 
pleases, including even California; he 
may send as many cardinals as he 
pleases; and no matter by what pompous 
phraseology all that be done, the United 
States politicians, and the United States 
Legislature at Washington, would be 
perfectly indifferent to it all. Why 
cannot we, in this country, as politicians, 
while giving the same security to private 
and individual judgment, leave the 
settlement of this question as it is in the 
United States? Is it that we are so 
ignorant, or that we are so liable to be 
misled ? Then, I say, let us look sharp, 
and follow the advice given by Mr. 
Lawrence, the American Minister, and 
educate ourselyes. 

But I am told that the reason is that 
we have a State Church in England. 
Well, but does a State Church render 
the people of this country less able to 
protect themselves by their own unaided 
judgment, knowledge, and sound sense, 


from aggression? Are the people less 
able to protect themselves against error, 
because they have a State Church ? Will 
that be the confession? No. But the 
State Church has been made the obstacle, 
or attempted to be made the obstacle, 
in every parish, to the promotion of the 
same liberality that exists in America, 
against every proposal with regard to 
liberty, whether civil, religious, or com¬ 
mercial. There is no advance made in 
the path of freedom of any kind, but we 
are, and have been, continually threat¬ 
ened with obstruction by the cry of ‘The 
Church in danger.’ Yet, I must say, 
that in every case the partisans of the 
Church have found their predictions 
singularly falsified. After the repeal of 
the Test and Corporation Act, after the 
accomplishment of Emancipation, after 
the Reform Bill was secured, there was 
the same cry; but I believe it will be 
admitted by both Churchmen and Dis¬ 
senters, that the Church never was so 
active and prosperous, never were so 
many churches built, and never had the 
Establishment greater authority, than 
after the last of those great reforms down 
to the present day. Where, then, are 
the grounds for fear, on the part of 
Churchmen, for the security of the 
Church ? But I say here that we will 
have toleration and religious freedom in 
this country, cost what it may. I do 
not stand here as the advocate of the 
partisans of the Roman Catholic body. 
As a politician, I do not presume to offer 
my opinions on the faith of any man. 
On the polity of that Church, I might 
possibly be allowed to offer an opinion; 
yet at the present moment, when county 
meetings are held and advertised (partly 
at the expense of Roman Catholics them¬ 
selves, who pay rates as well as Pro¬ 
testants) ; when, I say, so much abuse 
is lavished upon them, I should be loath 
to offer any observation upon the polity 
of that Church. But I may be allowed 
to say that I am no friend to the organ¬ 
isation of the Roman Catholic body. It 
is too centralising for me; it is too 
subduing to the intellect for me ; and if 
I changed my religion at all, I should 






534 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. 23, 


be as little likely as any gentleman in 
this room to go into their chapel, nay, 
as any one upon the face of the earth. 
But, at the same time, let the Roman 
Catholics living in England judge for 
themselves, not only of their own faith 
and motives, but of the mode in which 
they would constitute the organisation 
that will always follow religious teaching. 
Why should you dictate to the Roman 
Catholic bishops whether they will go¬ 
vern by a cardinal, an archbishop, or 
diocese ? They do not come to me, as a 
politician, to ask me to give force and 
validity to their titles, or to give them 
stipends out of the public purse. What 
right have I, then, as a politician, to 
come before a public meeting, or to get 
up in the House of Commons, and say a 
word upon the subject of their faith, or 
on the polity of the Roman Catholic 
Church ? 

We shall be told pretty often, no 
doubt, that unless Government interferes, 
the privileges and prerogatives of the 
Queen of England will be invaded by 
the Pope,—not by Cardinal Wiseman. 
Cardinal Wiseman is a British subject; 
he cannot invade the prerogative of the 
Crown without being guilty of high 
treason; and if he is so guilty, let him 
be tried by the law. But what preroga¬ 
tives have been invaded by the conduct 
of the Pope? Not the temporal prero¬ 
gative. Why, the Pope has at this 
moment in his army a few thousand 
French and Austrian troops. And I 
have it on the best authority, that if these 
troops were removed, dire would be the 
dismay and speedy the flight of the whole 
body. Pope and cardinals. It is not, 
then, the army of the Pope that can 
threaten the temporalities of the Crown. 
Are the temporal prerogatives threatened 
by sea? You may have a list of the 
active naval force of the Pope; it 
amounts to two gun brigs and a schooner. 
Put one quarter of the effective service 
which is stationed on the coast of Sussex, 
and it would be quite sufficient to guard 
the whole island against the Pope’s 
navy. It is not, then, the temporal 
sovereignty or the secular privileges 


of the Queen that can be endangered 
by the Pope, but her spiritual dominion, 
we are told, is to be perilled. 

Now are we, as politicians, who are 
called upon fairly enough to vote money 
for ordnance, and for shot and shells, to 
meet and repel the aggressive enemy 
that meets us with spiritual weapons? 
Are we to forge the spiritual artillery 
with which we are to meet the aggression ? 
If we are, I beg you to consider how 
capitally we are suited in the House of 
Commons for that purpose. I won’t say 
a word to asperse the character of that 
body, of which I form a humble unit, 
—I mean the general character of that 
body, as a religious body. You may say, 
if you will, and believe, if you please, 
—I leave you to enjoy the pleasures of 
your credulity,—that a large majority of 
that House of Commons are living in 
an especial odour of sanctity and piety. 
You may believe it, if you please ; I 
offer no opinion on it, for being one of 
the body, and having to face them in 
about a fortnight, I hope you will excuse 
my expressing an opinion on the subject. 
But admitting, if you please,—admitting 
that we are, the great majority of us, 
eminent for our piety,—how are we 
constituted? Are we all Churchmen, 
owning the spiritual authority of the 
Queen ? Why, we are about forty or fifty 
of us Roman Catholics, and, mark me, 
you will have a great many more Roman 
Catholics returned from Ireland at the 
next election. We have an Independent 
or two, we have three or four Unitarians, 
and we have a Quaker, I am happy to 
say, and I wish we had a good many 
more; and we have a fair prospect of 
having a Jew. 

Now, is not that a very nice body of 
men to uphold the Queen’s supremacy 
as the head of England’s Church? Why, 
gentlemen, if you wanted to give us a 
task in the House of Commons which 
should last till Doomsday, and that we 
should therefore put off, as no doubt 
Mr. Hugh Stowell would require, all 
reforms, whether fiscal or parliamentary, 
till that remote day, then give us the 
task of settling this question of Papal 




1851. 

Aggression. I say, give it to the poli¬ 
ticians to settle, if you want it never to 
be settled at all. As has been well 
expressed here by Mr. Bright, politicians 
have been at the work already for four 
or five hundred years. They have used 
every available method. They have tried 
fire and faggot: that is the most effectual 
means, I admit — but, then, you must 
exterminate also those who hold the 
opinions from which you differ. That 
was too shocking even for the sixteenth 
century, and so it was given up—I mean 
the attempt to exterminate those who 
professed these opinions. Then came 
the penal laws, which went every length 
short of extermination. What has been 
the tendency of the last century? Con¬ 
stant relaxation—a tendency more and 
more to religious toleration. What has 
been the course taken by the leading 
statesmen of this country? Why, to 
their honour be it said, the greatest and 
most illustrious statesmen of the last 
sixty years were so far in advance of the 
latent bigotry still existing in this country, 
that they were ready to sacrifice their 
fame—I mean such a fame as temporary 
popularity—they were willing to forego 
place, patronage, everything which states¬ 
men and politicians hold most dear, 
rather than lend themselves to the con¬ 
tinuance of that system. But I very 
much fear there are men now in the 
Cabinet, who owe all their distinction 
in public life to having been identified 
with that principle of toleration to which 
we are constantly more and more pro¬ 
gressing, but who are now ready to sully 
their fair fame, and belie, I had almost 
said, the whole of their past political 
career, on entering into the political 
session of 1851. Gentlemen, I entreat 
you to remove this question of religious 
opinions,—remove it out of the domain 
of politicians, if you wish not only to 
make progress in those questions which 
we cannot delay, and if you wish to 
prevent a retrograde policy. It will not 
end in a mere return to the paths of 
religious monopoly, but will be certain 
to conduct you into a retrograde track, 
in questions affecting our temporal inter¬ 


535 

ests, and for which many of those who 
fancy themselves sincere, are now lending 
their voices when they raise this cry for 
religious intolerance. I agree with Mr. 
Gibson completely, that if this country 
permits one step backward, in the career 
of religious toleration, you are endanger¬ 
ing yourselves on questions in which you 
feel most nearly interested. I never felt 
the slightest doubt in the world come 
across my mind on the subject of retain¬ 
ing everything we have gained in the 
way of social improvement, until I saw 
the account of a county meeting in Essex, 
which has had its counterpart nearly in 
every part of England, and at which 
Sir John Tyrell was one of the most 
prominent actors, when he called for 
three cheers for Lord John Russell. 

Look at the actors throughout the 
country, in this present movement against 
what is called the Papal Aggression. 
Who are they ? Have you seen those men 
advocating the repeal of the Corn-laws ? 
Have you not seen in every case, that 
the most prominent actors in these 
county meetings are the men who resisted 
the establishment of that principle of 
commercial reform ? Let me ask you if 
by any accident,—such accidents as may 
happen in our Constitution, which are 
precipitated at any moment,—you who 
entirely agree with me upon the subject 
of commercial freedom, and generally 
upon questions of liberal policy in secular 
affairs, let me ask you to answer me this 
question : Suppose a general election 
were to take place, and those who are 
prominent in opposing religious toler¬ 
ation succeeded (and I am not sure that 
they would not succeed), in returning to 
Parliament a majority for re-enacting 
the disabilities and restrictions upon 
Roman Catholics, would not that be a 
majority that would either tamper with 
the Corn-laws, or take care to indemnify 
themselves for what has been taken from 
them ? It is so ; and those who are 
acting have not been so discreet, in this 
case, as to conceal their belief in the 
possibility of retrieving their monopoly. 
I say to those who have generally been 
favourable to commercial freedom, who 


POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 



53^ 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


jan. 23, 


have been, in fact, friendly to civil and 
commercial freedom, and who join in 
this cry, and lend themselves to the sup¬ 
port of this party who are in favour of 
religious restrictions,—I say that they 
would, in my opinion, bring back on 
themselves the commercial monopolies 
and political monopolies; and I say to 
them as inconsistent men,—for I don’t 
address myself to those who oppose 
freedom in every shape,—but to those 
who were generally with us in advocat¬ 
ing civil and commercial freedom,—I 
say if they gain the triumph of religious 
intolerance, and if they gain along with 
it a monopoly in food, they richly merit 
their fate. 

But there is one thing that has been 
said by those who preceded me,—they 
have alluded to the bigotry, and fanati¬ 
cism, and ignorance, which prevailed 
fifty years ago amongst the mass of the 
people of this country. Now, there is 
one symptom, and almost the only 
symptom, which has consoled me in 
this agitation for religious disabilities, 
and it is this :—the calm, passive, and, 
in many respects, contemptuous silence 
and indifference with which it has been 
regarded by the great mass of the people 
of this country. If the same tumults 
had occurred fifty or sixty years ago, 
owing to the prevailing ignorance and 
bigotry of the mass of the people of 
this country, half the Roman Catholic 
chapels would have been in flames, and 
half their occupants’ lives in danger. And 
I thank the demonstration only for this : 
that it has given me, more than anything 
else, a conviction of the great progress 
that has been made in real intelligence 
by the great mass of the people, especi¬ 
ally in the north of England. I will 
not say so much of the south. And I 
cannot say much for the Corporation 
of London. Why, only think of that 
Corporation professing to represent the 
City. Only think of it! Last year it 
was setting itself up and agitating in a 
ferment of enlightened intelligence and 
patriotism, in favour of religious liberty 
to the Jews. Now it is denouncing the 


superstitious ceremonies of the Roman 
Catholics. When has there been such 
a spectacle, so absurd a spectacle, ex¬ 
hibited as that which was shown, when 
the London Corporation took that great 
gingerbread coach, the pattern of 200 
years ago, and clothed themselves in 
that Bartholomew-fair dress of theirs, 
and took a man with a fur cap, whose 
pattern dates back, I believe, five cen¬ 
turies, with a long sword in his hand, 
and all the other paraphernalia of the 
Corporation of London, and went down 
by the railroad to Windsor, in order to 
present an address to the Queen, in 
order to put down—Popish mummeries! 
If you want to see mummeries, go and. 
see the Lord Mayor’s procession. I 
have seen the grand ceremonies in the 
Vatican at Easter, I have seen the most 
gorgeous religious processions the Church 
of Rome can boast of, but I never saw 
anything half so absurd, or half so 
offensive to intelligenceor common sense, 
as the mummeries in which the Corpor¬ 
ation of London indulge every year. 
Now I am glad to say of the north of 
England, that the mass of the people 
here have not joined in this intolerant 
outcry. I only regret that circumstances 
have prevented this meeting from being- 
held in the Free Trade Hall, that I 
might have heard the cheer which 1 
should have had from five thousand 
auditors, in expressing the sentiments I 
have just enunciated. 

Now, gentlemen, only one word more, 
as a politician again, but not as a party 
politician, if you please. Something has 
been said about conduct or misconduct 
during the last session. I don’t come 
here to answer to you, because I have not 
the honour of representing many of you. 
But this I will say, I am exceedingly 
tolerant of every Member of the House 
of Commons who strains a point to vote 
with the Government, provided he has 
been some fifteen or twenty years longer 
in the political arena than I have been. 

I believe my friend Mr. Brotherton, foi 
instance, aims as much at benefiting the 
mass of the people in this country, in 




POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 


537 


1851. 

every form by which he can effect it, as 
I do ; but I believe Mr. Brotherton has 
a stronger sentiment of reliance and 
sympathy towards the present Govern¬ 
ment than I have, and it is easily ac¬ 
counted for. Mr. Brotherton entered 
Parliament after the passing of the 
Reform Bill, and shared the struggles in 
obtaining that Bill, which I still regard, 
notwithstanding what Mr. Dyer said, a 
great progress in political reform. He 
shared all the struggles in carrying that 
Bill, and it is natural that he should have 
those sympathies. But I will say this in 
vindication of myself, that I entered 
somewhat at an advanced time of life for 
a man who has taken up the discussion 
of a public question, and I did it resolved 
to devote my labours to the solution of 
that question, without reference to the 
temporary interests or conveniences of 
any existing political party; and the 
result of that agitation in the case of 
the Corn-laws has convinced me that if 
anything is to be done in this country for 
the great mass of the people, if you are 
to succeed in establishing any reform of 
magnitude, it can only be done by the 
people out of doors, and in the House 
resolving to do that one thing, and 
totally disregarding the existing political 
parties in that House. 

I desire to see something accomplished. 
I have set myself the task of accomplish¬ 
ing certain things, and amongst them 
that which is most dear to my heart is 
the advocacy of a more peaceful and 
conciliatory policy in the intercourse of 
nations, or, as I would especially say, in 
the intercourse between this country and 
weaker nations. If you want to wound 
my principles most acutely, it will be to 
show me England violating the principle 
of a conciliatory and humane policy when 
it has to deal with a weak Power, which 
is like a child in its grasp. I look upon 
inhumanity, rudeness, or violence, on the 
part of England towards a powerless state 
like Greece, with additional resentment, 
just as I should regard that man as a 
coward as well as a despot who molested 
and ill-used a child. Feeling, then, that 


my principles were violated in the case 
of Lord Palmerston, in the Greek affair, 
I voted against him on that occasion, 
and I should do so again, if ten thousand 
seats in Parliament depended on the 
issue of my vote. 

Now, gentlemen, let me give one 
word of advice to those who are in 
Manchester or elsewhere, and take up a 
hasty conclusion against some of our 
Members, with whom you generally 
agree, and in whose judgment and saga¬ 
city you have some confidence, to beware 
how you take a side against them, merely 
because you see a certain line of policy 
argued in certain public prints. Give 
them credit for being wary : they have 
a better opportunity of sifting public men 
than you have. A man must be a fool, 
if he does not, after being in Parliament 
seven or eight years, and sitting in 
Committees with nearlyall the Members, 
discover the motives of Governments 
when they are disclosed, not on the public 
arena, but where they are chatted over by 
friends in private. Depend upon it your 
Members will have rather better oppor¬ 
tunities than you will have of judging 
the conduct of public men. And if you 
happen to think that Lord Palmerston, 
although he did try to maintain a fixed 
duty long after Lord Aberdeen had 
become the advocate of total repeal and 
untaxed bread,—if, notwithstanding cer¬ 
tain other symptoms I could mention, 
which prove that Lord Palmerston is 
not the champion for liberty that you 
suppose,—if, I say, notwithstanding you 
have an impression in favour of Lord 
Palmerston, your Members come to a 
different conclusion, why, give them 
credit for the same honesty of purpose 
and intelligence with yourselves; and 
bear in mind, that they have the better 
opportunity of forming an opinion than 
yourselves. I have no desire to stand 
out singularly in my vote. As was well 
expressed by Mr. Bright, it is a very 
unpleasant thing to do so ; it would be 
far more agreeable to make companion¬ 
ship with those men on the Treasury- 
benches, instead of treading on their toes 



S3 8 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JAN. 23, 


and poking them in the ribs, and making 
them uncomfortable. Is it any satisfac¬ 
tion to me, do you think, that Lord 
Palmerston’s organ, the Globe , has de¬ 
nounced me, over and over again, as a 
disappointed demagogue, and hurled 
language at me which no other journal, 
the Times, for instance, has ever levelled 
at me ? I know perfectly well that on 
the Manchester Exchange, and the Leeds 
Exchange, and the Liverpool Exchange, 
where the Globe paper is taken, and is 
understood to be a Whig paper, when 
persons see it speak in such terms of the 
Member for the West Riding, they are 
apt to think there must be a great deal 
in it, and that the Member must be 
making himself especially ridiculous in 
the House of Commons. I am not a 
disappointed demagogue ; if ever there 
was anybody who ought to be satisfied 
with his public career, it is I. I thank 
you for giving me the only response which 
could relieve me from the imputation of 
great egotism in saying so. 

Well, as I said before, my position is 
net the same as that of Mr. Brotherton. 
I cannot see the line of demarcation 
between Whig and Tory which he sees. 

I cannot see what principle the Whigs 
advocate which the Tories do not advo¬ 
cate. I find in Lord John Russell, in 
the House of Commons, not simply 
great impatience but petulance, and I 
had almost said great insolence, in his 
dealings, particularly in the remarks he 
has made to our friend, Mr. Bright. He, 
I am sure, is very indifferent to the 
remarks themselves, but they are suffici¬ 
ently important as indicating the tone of 
the man who is supposed to be the leader 
of our party. I must confess that, in 
regard to fiscal matters, I am bound to 
say, I believe the Opposition party would 
do quite as much in the way of retrench¬ 
ment as the Whigs ; I am not sure that 
they would not do more. I believe 
Sir James Graham, for instance, would 
show less subserviency to the Duke of 
Wellington, in military arrangements, 
than Lord J. Russell or Lord Palmerston. 
I believe in Colonial policy, whilst Sir 


R. Peel resolutely refused to add another 
acre to our tropical possessions, the pre¬ 
sent Government are taking possession 
in Asia, as well as Africa, of tracts of 
tropical territory, which, I believe, not¬ 
withstanding anything that may be said 
to the contrary by the Manchester Asso¬ 
ciation, are only calculated to entail 
additional expense upon us, instead of 
benefiting us, as a free-trading commu¬ 
nity ; and I fear that next session we 
shall be placed in a still worse dilemma. 
If we are to believe the reports that 
Lord J. Russell, instead of being the 
champion of religious liberty, is going to 
embark in a crusade against religious 
freedom, I shall find myself then still 
further alienated from the present party. 
But this I say : if I do not see that I have 
at least the liberty of voting in the House 
of Commons for something different to 
that which now exists,—if I cannot hope 
to see some change and some reform,— 
at least if I am not allowed the free 
advocacy of my own opinions for some 
distinct principle different from that which 
is now the rule of conduct with Whig 
and Tory,—why am I to be sitting up 
till twelve o’clock every night in the 
House of Commons? This disappointed 
demagogue wants no public employment; 
if he did, he might have had it before 
now. I want no favour, and, as my 
friend Bright says, no title. I want 
nothing that any Government or any 
party can give me; and if I am in the 
House of Commons at all, it is to give 
my feeble aid to the advancement of 
certain questions on which I have strong 
convictions. Deprive me of that power ; 
tell me I am not to do this, because it is 
likely to destroy a Government with 
which at the present moment I can have 
no sympathy ; then, I say, the sooner I 
return to printing calicoes, or something 
more profitable than sitting up in the 
House of Commons night after night in 
that way, the better both for me and my 
friends. I have come here, then, merely 
to renew personal acquaintances,—or 
rather, anxious by a short sojourn in this 
j neighbourhood and in Yorkshire, not to 



POLICY OF THE WHIG GOVERNMENT. 


S39 


1851. 

lose old acquaintances which I highly 
prize and value. I come, moreover, in 
order to have an opportunity of testing 
the current of public opinion a little, and 
sounding its depth, to see whether it be 
an unusual tide, or a steady, permanent 
stream. I think this meeting has demon¬ 


strated to me, that whatever exists in 
other parts of the country, here at least 
there is no reaction ; and that, remember¬ 
ing what are our recorded opinions, you 
in Lancashire, and I hope my friends in 
Yorkshire, will always be found true to 
the principles of liberty and toleration. 



PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. 


I. 

HOUSE OF COMMONS, JULY 6, 1848. 


[On June 20, 1848, Mr. Hume moved the following resolution:—' That this House, 
as at present constituted, does not fairly represent the population, the property, or 
the industry of the country; whence have arisen great and increasing discontent in 
the minds of a large portion of the people; and it is therefore expedient, with a 
view to amend the National Representation, that the elective franchise shall be so 
extended as to include all householders, that votes shall be taken by Ballot, that 
the duration of Parliaments shall not exceed three years, and that the apportion¬ 
ment of Members to population shall be made more equal.' On July 6, the motion 
was rejected by 267 (321 to 84).] 


I rise under great disadvantages to 
address this House, after the hon. and 
learned Gentleman (Serjeant Talfourd) 
who has just sat down; and the diffi¬ 
culty of my position would be very 
much increased if I were called upon to 
address myself to this question in the 
manner, and with the eloquence and 
fancy, by which his speech has been 
distinguished; but I make no pretence 
to follow in such a track. I can only 
help observing, that the hon. and learned 
Gentleman has not given us any facts as 
the groundwork of his reasoning. There 
is one statement, however, made by the 
hon. and learned Gentleman, which is 
not a fact, but on which the opponents 
of my hon. Friend the Member for 
Montrose (Mr. Hume) seem very much 
to rely. The statement to which I allude 
is to this effect,—that the wishes of the 
country are not in favour of the change 
which my hon. Friend proposes. That 
assertion, as we all know, was made by 
the noble Lord the Member for London. 
Now, it must be generally felt that this 


statement is of more importance than 
any other that has been uttered upon 
this subject. On other subjects connected 
with the Government and Constitution 
of this country there may be much 
diversity of opinion; but I ask, is there 
any great diversity of opinion, at this 
moment, amongst the great class, who 
are now excluded from the franchise ? I 
put it to the noble Lord to say, does he, 
or do his friends, mean to say, or do they 
not, that the masses of the unrepresented 
population in this country have no desire 
to possess political power and privileges? 
Will any one utter such a libel on the 
people of England ? Will any one say 
that they are so abject, so base, so servile, 
as not to desire to possess the rights of 
citizens and freemen ? I have not believed, 
and I do not believe, that such are the 
sentiments of my fellow-countrymen. I 
should entertain a very poor opinion 
indeed of the people of this country if I 
were to give a vote in favour of such a 
proposition; but yet it forms an import¬ 
ant element in the reasonings of the 



1848. 


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. I. 


54 1 


Gentlemen who oppose my hon. Friend 
the Member for Montrose. If you admit 
the most evident truth that can come 
under the notice of any man, you must 
admit that at least six-sevenths of the 
male population of this United Kingdom 
are earnestly pressing for and claiming 
the rights which you are denying them. 
I will go further, and tell the House 
that a very large proportion of the middle 
class regret that so many belonging to a 
humbler order of society than themselves 
should have been included amongst the 
unrepresented portion of the community. 
They express a sincere desire that the 
franchise should be extended; they look 
with great interest to the result of this 
night’s division; and I undertake to say, 
that you will find those Members of this 
House who represent large and inde¬ 
pendent constituencies, comprising, for 
the most part, persons belonging to the 
middle class, you will find such Mem¬ 
bers voting with my hon. Friend—they 
are the men who will go into the lobby 
in favour of his motion. It is thus that 
the strongest and most useful appeal will 
be responded to by the great mass of the 
middle orders, and thus, I think, it will 
be shown, that the middle class entertain 
no such feeling of hostility against the 
admission of working men to political 
power as they are said to indulge. In 
proportion as the middle class are free 
and independent, in so far do they desire 
the freedom and independence of the 
rank nearest to themselves, in that pro¬ 
portion do they desire to open the portals 
of the Constitution to the poor man. 
Some hon. Members in this House have 
contended against this truth ; but I take 
the liberty of saying, that I have for a 
long time been accustomed to watch the 
progress of opinion on this subject out 
of doors; and this I tell the hon. and 
learned Gentleman, and I can prove it, 
even to his satisfaction, that I have had 
better opportunities than he possesses of 
estimating the state of opinion out of 
doors upon this matter; and I beg to 
inform him, that this opinion in favour 
of my hon. Friend’s motion has arisen 
spontaneously—that there has been no 


organization; and the best proof of this 
assertion that I can offer is to be found 
in the fact, that the number of public 
meetings to consider, discuss, and peti¬ 
tion upon this subject, has been no fewer 
than 130. I find it so recorded in the 
Daily News, and I repeat that this is a 
purely spontaneous movement. I have 
no hesitation in frankly acknowledging 
that we were five years agitating for a 
repeal of the Corn-laws, before we 
reached so advanced a point as that 
which the friends of the present question 
now occupy. Respecting the repeal of 
the Corn-laws, the mass of the people 
were said, truly enough, perhaps, to 
have been galvanized from a centre. 
But, with regard to the motion of my 
hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, 
the practice has been reversed; and 
whatever manifestations of opinion have 
been displayed out of doors, they have 
arisen without any exertion of central 
influence. 

I do not say that all men are agreed 
upon this subject—that there are no 
diversities of opinion ; but I say there is 
much less of this than those who resist 
my hon. Friend’s motion at all like to 
see. We have had petitions from those 
who favour the Charter, and from those 
who desire universal suffrage, and very 
many in favour of the particular plan 
upon which we are now speedily to 
divide. I have not anything to say 
against those petitions in favour of the 
Charter, or in favour of universal suf¬ 
frage. I am not contending against the 
right of a man, as a man, to the franchise 
—I mean the right that a man ought to 
enjoy apart from the possession of pro¬ 
perty ; but I feel I should not be justified 
in taking the line of argument adopted 
by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and 
by the noble Lord the First Minister of 
State, who addressed himself to the ad¬ 
vocates of universal suffrage, and seemed 
to argue that they were more right than 
the advocates of household suffrage. If 
he intends to vote for universal suffrage, 

I can understand the force of that argu¬ 
ment ; but as I am not going to oppose 
universal suffrage, and as I do not stand 




542 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JULY 6, 


here to support it, I leave him in the 
hands of the advocates of universal suf¬ 
frage, and, judging by what has been 
done, they seem disposed to make the 
most of the argument which has been 
put into their hands. 

I will not occupy the time of the 
House in discussing this point further, 
but rather prefer to direct attention to 
this circumstance, — that the hon. and 
learned Gentleman did not display his 
usual legal skill and knowledge in deal¬ 
ing with the question of household suf¬ 
frage, for it certainly is not surrounded 
with the difficulties which the right hon. 
and learned Gentleman has imagined. 
To judge from his speech, it would seem 
to be the law, that no one except the 
landlord and occupier of a house enjoys 
a vote in right of that house. Surely 
the hon. and learned Gentleman ought 
to have known that the Court of Com¬ 
mon Pleas has decided that lodgers 
paying more than io/. annually, and 
rated to the poor-rates, are entitled to 
be placed on the list of voters—that is to 
say, in cases where the landlord does not 
live on the premises. That is the state 
of the law as established by the Reform 
Act, and my hon. Friend seeks only to 
extend that privilege a little; it therefore 
can scarcely be considered a matter diffi¬ 
cult of arrangement. The mere extension 
of the existing rule gets rid of all diffi¬ 
culty, and gives the franchise to prudent 
young men—too prudent to marry and 
take houses with insufficient means ; to 
them, being lodgers, and paying a rent 
exceeding io/., the plan of my hon. 
Friend gives the franchise. The law of 
the land already goes very near to this. 

The allusion which the hon. and 
learned Gentleman made to the case of 
Cooper must be fresh in the recollection 
of the House. I am sorry he alluded to 
that part of Cooper’s career, who, I 
believe, greatly regrets those events, and 
would be glad to forget the part that he 
took in the affair at the Staffordshire 
Potteries. I again say, I am sorry that 
the subject was introduced here, for we 
want no additional examples to prove to 
us that a very good poet may be a very 


bad politician. The object of the motion 
of the hon. Member for Montrose is, that 
he may bring in a bill for the purpose, 
among other things, of giving votes to 
householders; that is to say, that parties 
not only paying taxes to the country, but 
rates to the poor, should have a voice in 
the election of Members to this House. 
In advocating this principle, we are 
really acting on the theory that exists as 
to the franchise of this country; for we 
say that the people of this country elect 
the Members of this House. Is that 
sham, or is it reality ? 

Now, if there is one thing more than 
another that the people do not like, it 
is sham. The people like realities. 
The theory of this country is, that the 
people like political power; and there 
is nobody responsible, as the hon. and 
learned Gentleman in his poetical flight 
seemed to imagine, for the education 
of the people and the preparation of 
them for the political franchise. If there 
had been any such responsible parties, 
the thing would have been done long 
ago. But, I ask, what danger is there 
in givfng the franchise to householders ? 
They are the fathers of families; they 
constitute the laborious and industrious 
population. What would be endangered 
by giving this class the franchise? When 
our institutions are talked of, I always 
hear it said that they live in the affections 
of the country, and that the Queen sits 
enthroned in the hearts of the people; 
and I have no fear of danger from any 
such wide extension of the suffrage as we 
now contemplate. I do not believe that 
it would lead to any change in the form 
of our government. I say, God forbid 
that it should. I sincerely hope, if there 
is to be a revolution in this country in 
consequence of which the monarchical 
form of government shall give way to 
any other form, that that revolution may 
happen when I shall be no longer here 
to witness it, for the generation that 
makes such a revolution will not be the 
generation to reap the fruits of it. I do 
not believe that the people of this country 
have any desire to change the form of 
their government, nor do I join with 



1848. 


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. I. 


those who think that the wide extension 
of the suffrage, of which we now speak, 
would either altogether or generally 
affect a change in the class of persons 
chosen as representatives. I do not 
think that there would be any great 
change in that respect. The people 
would continue, as at present, to choose 
their representatives from the easy class, 
—among the men of fortune; but I be¬ 
lieve this extension of the suffrage would 
tend to bring not only the legislation of 
this House, but the proceedings of the 
Executive Government, more in har¬ 
mony with the wants, wishes, and inter¬ 
ests of the people. I believe that the 
householders, to whom the present pro¬ 
position would give votes, would advo¬ 
cate a severe economy in the Government. 
I do not mean to say that a wide exten¬ 
sion of the suffrage might not be accom¬ 
panied by mistakes on some matters in 
the case of some of the voters; such 
mistakes will always occur ; but I have 
a firm conviction that they will make no 
mistake in the matter of economy and 
retrenchment. I have a firm conviction, 
that, if proper political power were 
given to the people, the taxation neces¬ 
sary for the expenditure of the State 
would be more equitably levied. 

What are the two things most wanted? 
What would the wisest political econo¬ 
mists, or the gravest philosophers, if 
they sat down to consider the circum¬ 
stances of this country, describe as the 
two most pressing necessities of our 
condition ? What but greater economy, 
and a more equitable apportionment of 
the taxation of the country ? I mean, 
that you should have taxation largely 
removed from the indirect sources from 
which it is at present levied, and more 
largely imposed on realised property. 
This retrenchment and due apportion¬ 
ment of taxation constitute the thing 
most wanted at present for the safety of 
the country ; and this the people, if they 
had the franchise now proposed, would, 
from the very instinct of selfishness, 
enable you to accomplish. Let me not 
be mistaken. I do not wish to lay all 
the taxation on property. I would not 


do injustice to any one class for the 
advantage of another; but I wish to 
see reduced, in respect to consumable 
articles, those obstructions which are 
offered by the Customs and Excise 
duties. You ought to diminish the 
duties on tea and wine, and you ought 
to remove every exciseman from the 
land, if you can ; and I believe that the 
selfish instinct—to call it by no other 
name—of the great body of the people, 
if they had the power to bring their will 
to bear on this House, would accomplish 
these objects, so desirable to be effected 
in this country. 

Then where is the danger of giving 
the people practically their theoretical 
share of political power? We shall be 
told that we cannot settle the question 
by household suffrage ; and I admit that 
by no legislation in this House in 1848 
can you settle any question. You cannot 
tell what another generation or Parlia¬ 
ment may do. But, if you enfranchise 
the householders in this country, mak¬ 
ing the number of voters 3,000,000 or 
4,000,000, whereas at present they are 
only about 800,000, will any one deny 
that by so doing you will conciliate the 
great mass of the people to the institu¬ 
tions of the country, and that, whatever 
disaffection might arise from any re¬ 
maining exclusion (and I differ from the 
hon. and learned Gentleman, who 
thought that more disaffection would 
thereby be created), your institutions 
will be rendered stronger by being 
garrisoned by 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of 
voters in place of 800,000 ? 

The hon. and learned Gentleman has 
expended a great deal of his eloquence 
on the question of electoral districts. 
Now, when you approach a subject like 
this, with a disposition to treat it in the 
cavilling spirit of a special pleader, 
dealing with chance expressions of your 
opponents, rather than looking at the 
matter in a broad point of view, it is 
easy to raise an outcry and a prejudice 
on a political question. But, as I under¬ 
stand the object of the hon. Member for 
Montrose, it is this,—he wishes for a 
fairerapportionment of the representation 



544 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JULY 6 


of the people. He said that he did not 
want the country marked out into 
parallelograms or squares, or to separate 
unnecessarily the people from their 
neighbours; and I quite agree with the 
hon. Member for Montrose, that his 
object can be attained without the dis¬ 
ruption of such ties. The hon. and 
learned Gentleman dealt with this ques¬ 
tion as if we were going to cut up some 
of the ancient landmarks of the country, 
as the Reform Act cut up some counties 
in two, and laid out new boundaries. 
But I will undertake to do all that the 
hon. Member for Montrose proposes to 
do without removing the boundary of a 
single county or parish; and, if I do not 
divide parishes or split counties, you 
will admit that I am preserving suf¬ 
ficiently the old ties. I must say that I 
consider this question of the reapportion • 
ment of Members to be one of very 
great importance. 

When you talk to me of the franchise, 
and ask me whether I will have a man 
to vote who is twenty-one years of age, 
and has been resident for six or twelve 
months, whether a householder or lodger, 
there is no principle I can fall back upon 
in order to be sure that I am right in 
any one of those matters. I concur 
with those who say that they do not 
stand on any natural right at all. I 
know no natural right to elect a Member 
to this House. I have a legal right, 
enabling me to do so, while six-sevenths 
of my fellow-countrymen want it. I do 
not see why they should not have the 
same right as myself; but I claim no 
natural right; and, if I wished to cavil 
with the advocates for universal suffrage, 
I should deal with them as I once 
good-humouredly dealt with a gentleman 
who was engaged in drawing up the 
Charter. He asked me to support 
universal suffrage on the ground of prin¬ 
ciple ; and I said, ‘ If it is a principle 
that a man should have a vote because 
he pays taxes, why should not, also, a 
widow who pays taxes, and is liable to 
serve as churchwarden and overseer, 
have a vote for Members of Parliament?’ 
The gentleman replied that he agreed 


with me, and that on this point, in 
drawing up the Charter, he had been 
outvoted; and I observed that he then 
acted as I did,—he gave up the question 
of principle, and adopted expediency. 

Isay that, with respect to the franchise, 
I do not understand natural right; but 
with respect to the apportionment of 
Members, there is a principle, and the 
representation ought to be fairly appor¬ 
tioned according to the same principle. 
What is the principle you select ? I will 
not take the principle of population, 
because I do not advocate universal 
suffrage; but I take the ground of 
property. How have you apportioned 
the representation according to property? 
The thing is monstrous. When you look 
into the affair, you will see how property 
is misrepresented in this House ; and I 
defy any one to stand up and say a 
word in defence of the present system. 
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire 
alluded the other night to the represent¬ 
ation of Manchester and Buckingham¬ 
shire, and made a mockery of the idea 
of Manchester having seven representa¬ 
tives. Now, judging from the quality 
of the Members already sent to this 
House by Manchester, I should wish to 
have not only seven such Members, but 
seventy times seven such. I will take 
the hon. Member’s own favourite county 
of Buckingham for the sake of illustra¬ 
tion, and compare it with Manchester. 
The borough of Manchester is assessed 
to the poor on an annual rental ot 
1,200,000/., while Buckinghamshire is 
assessed on an annual rental only of 
760,000/. The population of Bucking¬ 
hamshire is 170,000, and of Manchester 
240,000; and yet Buckinghamshire has 
eleven Members, and Manchester only 
two. The property I have mentioned 
in respect to Manchester does not in¬ 
clude the value of the machinery ; and, 
though I will grant that the annual 
value of land will represent a larger 
real value of capital than the annual 
value of houses, yet, when you bear in 
mind that the machinery in Manchester, 
and an enormous amount of accumulated 
personal property, which goes to sustain 




PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. I. 


545 


1848. 

the commerce of the country, is not 
included in the valuation I have given, 

[ think I am not wrong in stating that 
Manchester, with double the value of 
real property, has only two Members, 
while Buckinghamshire has eleven. At 
the same time, the labourers in Buck¬ 
inghamshire receive only gs. or iar. a 
week, while the skilled operatives of 
Manchester are getting double the sum, 
and are, consequently, enabled to expend 
more towards the taxation of the country. 

If this were merely a question between 
the people of Buckinghamshire and 
Manchester,—if it were merely a ques¬ 
tion whether the former should have 
more political power than the latter, 
the evil would in some degree be miti¬ 
gated, if the power really resided with 
the middle and industrious classes; but, 
on looking into the state of the repre¬ 
sentation of the darling county of the 
hon. Member, I find that the Members 
are not the representatives of the middle 
and industrious classes, for I find that 
eight borough Members are so distributed 
as, by an ingenious contrivance, to give 
power to certain landowners to send 
Members to Parliament. I will under¬ 
take to show that there is not more than 
one Member in Buckinghamshire re¬ 
turned by popular election, and also 
that three individuals in Buckingham¬ 
shire nominate a majority of the Mem¬ 
bers. If called on, I can name them. 
What justice is there in, not Bucking¬ 
hamshire, but two or three landowners 
there, having the power to send Mem¬ 
bers to this House to tax the people of 
Manchester? When this matter was 
alluded to on a former occasion, the 
hon. Member for Buckinghamshire 
treated the subject lightly and jocosely, 
as regarded the right of Manchester to 
send its fair proportion of Members to 
this House, and that jocularity was 
cheered with something like frantic de- 
'ight in this House; but I think this is 
.ne last time such an argument will be 
so received. I maintain that Manchester 
has a right to its fair proportion of 
representatives, and I ask for no more. 

I will now refer to the case of the 


West Riding of Yorkshire. That con¬ 
tains a population of 1,154,000; and 
Wilts contains a population of 260,000. 
The West Riding is rated to the poor on 
an annual rental of 3,576,000/., and 
Wilts on an annual rental of 1,242,000/., 
yet each returns eighteen Members; and 
when I refer to Wilts, I find six of its 
boroughs down in Dod's Parliamentary 
Companion as openly, avowedly, and 
notoriously under the influence of certain 
patrons, who nominate the Members. I 
hold in my hand a list of ten boroughs, 
each returning two Members to Parlia¬ 
ment, making in all twenty Members; 
and I have also a list of ten towns in the 
West Riding of Yorkshire which do not 
return any Member ; yet the smallest 
place in the latter list is larger than the 
largest of the ten boroughs having two 
Members each. Is there any right or 
reason in that ? According to a plan 
which I have seen made out, if the 
representation were fairly apportioned, 
the West Riding of Yorkshire should 
have thirty Members, whereas it now 
has eighteen only. We do not wish to 
disfranchise any body of the people,— 
we want to enfranchise largely; but 
what we would give the people should 
be a reality, and they should not be 
mocked by such boroughs as Great 
Marlow, where an hon. Gentleman re¬ 
turns himself and his cousin; as High 
Wycombe, Buckingham, and Aylesbury; 
but there should be a free constituency, 
protected by the ballot. 

With respect to Middlesex, the assess¬ 
ment to the poor is on an annual rental 
of 7,584,000/. ; and the assessment of 
Dorsetshire is on an annual rental of 
799,000/. Yet they both have fourteen 
Members, while the amount of the 
money levied for the poor in one year in. 
Middlesex is as large within 61 . as the 
whole amount of the property assessed 
to the poor in Dorsetshire. The assess¬ 
ment to the poor in Marylebone is on an 
annual rental of 1,666,000/., being more 
than the annual rental of two counties 
returning thirty Members. Why should 
not the metropolis have a fair represent¬ 
ation according to its property ? I believe 

35 





546 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JULY 6, 


that the noble Lord at the head of the 
Government did intimate a suspicion of 
the danger of giving so large a number 
of Members to the metropolis as would 
be the result of a proportional arrange¬ 
ment. I am surprised at the noble Lord 
holding such an opinion, as he is himself 
an eminent example and proof, that the 
people of the metropolis might be en¬ 
trusted safely with such a power. I 
observed, that in the plan for the repre¬ 
sentation in Austria, it was proposed to 
give Vienna a larger than a mere pro¬ 
portional share in the representation, 
because it was assumed that the metro¬ 
polis was more enlightened than the 
other parts of the country. 

Now, notwithstanding all that may be 
said to the contrary, I maintain that the 
inhabitants of your large cities—and of a 
metropolis especially—are better quali¬ 
fied to exercise the right of voting than 
the people of any other part of the 
empire ; for they are generally the most 
intelligent, the most wealthy, and the 
most industrious. I believe that the 
people of this metropolis are the hardest- 
working people in England. But where 
is the difficulty ? An hon. Gentleman 
has objected to large constituencies, on 
the ground that Members would then be 
returned by great mobs. Now, my idea 
is, that you make a mob at a London 
election by having too large a constitu¬ 
ency. Some of your constituencies are 
too large, while others are too small. 
Take Marylebone, or Finsbury, with a 
population of between 200,000 and 
300,000; the people there cannot confer 
with their neighbours as to the election 
of representatives. But you may give a 
fair proportion of representatives to the 
metropolis ; and you may lay out the 
metropolis in wards, as you do for the 
purpose of civic elections. I do not 
undertake to say what number of electors 
should be apportioned to each ward, 
that is a matter of detail; but if the sub¬ 
ject were approached honestly, it would 
not be difficult to come to a satisfactory 
conclusion. I believe that if the metro¬ 
polis. were laid out in districts for the 
election of Members of Parliament, the 


people would make a better choice of 
representatives than any other part of 
the kingdom. Do not be alarmed by 
supposing that they would send violent 
Radicals to Parliament. You would 
have some of your rich squares, and of 
your wealthy districts, sending aristo¬ 
crats : while other parts of the metropo¬ 
lis would return more democratic Mem¬ 
bers. It is a chimera to suppose that 
the character of the representation would 
be materially changed ; the matter only 
requires to be looked into to satisfy any 
one that it is a chimera. I tell you that 
you cannot govern this country peace¬ 
ably, while it is notorious that the great 
body of the people, here in London and 
elsewhere, are excluded from their fair 
share of representation in this House. I 
do not say that you should have an in¬ 
creased number of representatives. I 
think we have quite as many represent¬ 
atives in this House as we ought to 
have; but if you continue the present 
number of representatives, you must give 
a larger proportion to those communities 
which possess the largest amount of 
property, and diminish the number of 
Members for those parts of the country 
which have now an undue number of 
representatives. You cannot deal with 
the subject in any other way; and you 
cannot prevent the growing conviction 
in the public mind, that whatever fran¬ 
chise you may adopt—whether a house¬ 
hold or a 10/. franchise—you must have 
a more fair apportionment of Members 
of this House. Do not suppose that this 
is a mere question of mathematical 
nicety. No; where the power is, to 
that power the Government will gravi¬ 
tate. The power is now in the hands of 
persons who nominate the Members of 
this House,—of large proprietors, and 
of individuals who come here represent¬ 
ing small constituencies. It is they who 
rule the country ; to them the Govern¬ 
ment are bound to bow. But let the 
great mass of the householders, let the 
intelligence of the people be heard in 
this House, and the Prime Minister may 
carry on his Government with more se¬ 
curity to himself, and with more security 




1848. 


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. I. 


to the country, than he can do with the 
factitious power he now possesses. 

Upon the ballot I will say but a few 
words ; and for this reason—because it 
stands at the head of those questions 
which are likely to be carried in this 
House. I mean, that it has the most 
strength in this House and in the country 
among the middle classes, and particu¬ 
larly among the farmers, and among 
persons living in the counties. Some 
hon. Gentlemen say, * Oh ! ’ They are 
not farmers who say ‘ Oh, oh ! ’ they are 
landlords. The farmers are in favour 
of the ballot. I will take the highest 
farming county—Lincolnshire. Will any 
one tell me that the farmers of Lincoln¬ 
shire are not in favour of the ballot ? I 
say this question stands first; it will be 
carried. Why, no argument is attempted 
to be urged against it, except the most 
ridiculous of all arguments, that it is 
un-English. I maintain that, so far from 
the ballot being un-English, there is 
more voting by ballot in England than 
in all the countries in Europe. And 
why? Because you are a country of 
associations and clubs, — of literary, 
scientific, and charitable societies,—of 
infirmaries and hospitals,—of great joint- 
stock companies,—of popularly governed 
institutions; and you are always voting 
by ballot in these institutions. Will any 
hon. Member come down fresh from the 
Carlton Club, where the ballot-box is 
ringing every week, to say that the ballot 
is un-English? Will gentlemen who 
resort to the ballot to shield themselves 
from the passing frown of a neighbour 
whom they meet every day, use this 
sophistical argument, and deny the tenant 
the ballot, that he may protect himself 
not only against the frowns but against 
the vengeance of his landlord ? 

As to triennial Parliaments, I need not 
say much on that subject. This, also, 
will be carried. We do not appoint 
people to be our stewards in private life 
for seven years ; we do not give people 
seven years’ control over our property. 
Let me remind the House that railway 
directors are elected every year. Some¬ 
thing has been said by the Prime Minister 


547 

as to the preference of annual to triennial 
Parliaments. I think I can suggest a 
mode of avoiding all difficulty on this 
point. Might it not be possible to adopt 
the system pursued at municipal elections 
—that one-third of the members should 
go out every year ? I mention this only 
as a plan for which we have a precedent. 
If one-third of the Members of this 
House went out every year, you would 
have an opportunity of testing the opinion 
of the country, and avoiding the shocks 
and convulsions so much dreaded by 
some hon. Gentlemen. 

I will only say one word, in conclusion, 
as to a subject which has been referred 
to by the hon. and learned member for 
Reading (Mr. Serjeant Talfourd) and 
the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire 
(Mr. Disraeli). They complain that 
leagues and associations were formed 
out of doors, and yet in the same breath 
they claim credit for the country that it 
has made great advances and reforms. 
You glorify yourselves that you have 
abolished the slave-trade and slavery. 
The hon. and learned Gentleman has 
referred, with the warmth and glow of 
humanity by which he is distinguished, 
to the exertions which have been made 
to abolish the punishment of death. 
Whatever you have done to break down 
any abomination or barbarism in this 
country has been done by associations 
and leagues out of this House; and why? 
Because, since Manchester cannot have 
its fair representation in this House, it 
was obliged to organise a League, that 
it might raise an agitation through the 
length and breadth of the land, and in 
this indirect matter might make itself felt 
in this House. Well, do you want to 
get rid of this system of agitation ? Do 
you want to prevent these leagues and 
associations out of doors? Then you 
must bring this House into harmony 
with the opinions of the people. Give 
the means to the people of making 
themselves felt in this House. Are you 
afraid of losing anything by it ? Why, 
the very triumphs you have spoken of 
—the triumphs achieved out of doors— 
by reformers, have been the salvation of 




548 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


JULY 6, 


this country. They are your glory and 
exultation at the present moment. But 
is this not a most cumbrous machine ? 
—a House of Commons, by a fiction 
said to be the representatives of the 
people, meeting here and professing to 
do the people’s work, while the people 
out of doors are obliged to organise 
themselves into leagues and associations 
to compel you to do that work? Now, 
take the most absurd illustration of this 
fact which is occurring at the present 
moment. There is a confederation, a 
league, an association, or a society,—I 
declare I don’t know by what fresh name 
it may have been christened, formed in 
Liverpool, a national confederation, at 
the head of which, I believe, is the 
brother of the right hon. Member for the 
University of Oxford, Mr. Gladstone, 
a gentleman certainly of sufficiently 
Conservative habits not to rush into 
anything of this kind, if he did not think 
it necessary. And what is the object of 
this association? To effect a reform of 
our financial system, and to accomplish 
a reduction of the national expenditure. 
Why, these are the very things for which 
this House assembles. This House is, 
par excellence, the guardian of the people’s 
purse; it is their duty to levy taxes 
justly, and to administer the revenue 
frugally; but they discharge this duty so 
negligently, that there is an assembly in 
Liverpool associated in order to compel 
them to perform it, and that assembly 
is headed by a Conservative. 

It is not with a view of overturning 
our institutions that I advocate these 
reforms in our representative system. It 
is because I believe that we may carry 
out those reforms from time to time, by 
discussions in this House, that I take my 


part in advocating them in this legitimate 
manner. They must be effected in this 
mode, or they must be effected, as has 
been the case on the Continent, by 
bayonets, by muskets, and in the streets. 
I am no advocate for such proceedings. 
I conceive that any man of political 
standing in this country—any Members 
of this House, for instance—who join in 
advocating the extension of the suffrage 
at this moment, are the real conservators 
of peace. So long as the great mass of 
the people of this country see that there 
are men in earnest who are advocating 
a great reform like this, they will wait, 
and wait patiently. They may want 
more ; but so long as they believe that 
men are honestly and resolutely striving 
for reform, and will not be satisfied until 
they get it, the peace and safety of this 
country — which I value as much as 
any Conservative—are guaranteed. My 
object in supporting this motion is, that I 
may bring to bear upon the legislation of 
this House those virtues and that talent 
which have characterised the middle and 
industrious classes of this country. If 
you talk of your aristocracy and your 
traditions, and compel me to talk of the 
middle and industrious classes, I say it is 
to them that the glory of this country is 
owing. You have had your government 
of aristocracy and tradition ; and the 
worst thing that ever befell this country 
has been its government for the last 
century-and-a-half. All that has been 
done to elevate the country has been the 
work of the middle and industrious 
classes ; and it is because I wish to bring 
such virtue, such intelligence, such in¬ 
dustry, such frugality, such economy into 
this House, that I support the Motion 
of the hon. Member for Montrose. 




PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. 

II. 

LONDON, NOVEMBER 26, 1849. 


[The object of the meeting held at the London Tavern, and of which Mr. Samuel 
Morley, now Member for Bristol, was Chairman, was to advocate the scheme of the 
Metropolitan and National Freehold Land Association. Mr. Cobden’s Speech 
introduced the following resolution ' That this meeting is of opinion, that the 
Freehold Land movement, adapted, as it is, to the varied position and circumstances 
of all classes of the people, is calculated to improve the parliamentary representation 
of the country.’] 


If I understand the character of this 
meeting, it is assembled solely for busi¬ 
ness purposes. We are the members 
and friends of the Metropolitan and 
National Freehold Land Society, and 
we meet here to promote the objects of 
that society. It is an association framed 
for the purpose of enabling individuals, 
by means of small monthly contributions, 
to create a fund by which they may 
be enabled, in the best and cheapest 
way, to possess themselves of the county 
franchise. You will see, then, that this 
society has a double object in view: it 
is a deposit for savings, and a means of 
obtaining a vote. Now we don’t meet 
here to-day, as a part or branch of the 
Birmingham Society, which was formed 
a few days ago, and called the Birming¬ 
ham Freeholders’ Union. That is a 
society composed of individuals, from 
all parts of the kingdom, who choose 
to subscribe to it, for the purpose of 
enabling a committee in Birmingham to 
stimulate throughout the country by 
lectures, and by means of a periodical 
journal called the Freeholder, to be 


published on the first of next month, the 
formation of freehold land societies. 
We do not meet as part of an agitating 
body, but merely to promote the objects 
of the Metropolitan and National Free¬ 
hold Land Society. The plan of that 
society is, to purchase large estates — 
large, comparatively speaking, and to 
divide them amongst the members of 
the association at cost price. In that 
explanation consists the main force and 
value of this association. The principle, 
you will see in a moment, is calculated 
to give great advantages to those who 
wish to join associations of this kind. 
I know that some gentlemen, who have 
given their attention to buildingsocieties, 
will say that this is not a building 
society. Why, the building societies, 
as they are called, are none of them, 
strictly speaking, building societies. 
They may be properly called mutual 
benefit security societies; but this Free¬ 
hold Land Association is enrolled under 
the Building Society Act, and certified 
by Mr. Tidd Pratt, the revising barrister; 
and the object is, that members of the 



ss° 


NOV. 26, 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


association shall have all the benefits the 
Act of Parliament can give them, and 
all the security it confers ; and we pro¬ 
pose to give them some other additional 
advantages. It has been said by those 
who look closely into the rules of this 
association, ‘ You have no power under 
the Building Act to purchase estates and 
divide them.’ That is perfectly true. 
We have no such powers; but the 
directors will, at the risk of the parties 
who buy the estates, undertake to 
purchase land, and to give the members 
of this association the refusal of that 
land. So that our object is to give you 
all the benefits of the Building Societies 
Act, and also the refusal of portions of 
the estates which have been bought at 
the risk of others. 

I need not tell you, that a great deal 
of the success of all associations of this 
kind depends, first, on correct calcula¬ 
tions being made in framing the society; 
and next, and, perhaps, most of all, on 
the character and stability of those who 
have the responsible management. Now, 
with regard to the calculations on which 
this society is founded, I should be very 
sorry to allow this opportunity to pass, 
without coming to a perfectly clear 
understanding with all who are concerned 
in the association, as to what I propose, 
as a member of the board of directors, 
to undertake to do towards the share¬ 
holders. It has been stated that we 
undertake to find a freehold qualification 
for a county at a certain sum, say 30/. 
I believe that, in the first prospectus, 
that sum was stated; but, when I heard 
of it, I stipulated that it should be with¬ 
drawn, for I will be no party to any 
stipulation of the kind. I do not appear 
here, having myself land to sell. All I 
promise you is, that, while I remain for 
twelve months as a responsible director, 
all the property bought shall be divided 
without profit, and that the members of 
the association shall have its refusal at 
cost price. But, whether it cost 20/., 
or 30/., or 40/., or 50/., is a matter to 
which I do not undertake to pledge 
myself, because it is a matter which I 
cannot control. It has happened, at 


Birmingham, that many persons obtained 
as much land as gave them a qualification 
for as little as 20/., but that may be a 
lucky accident. I will not be a party to 
any pledge that we shall procure land 
for others on equally favourable terms. 

Well, having cleared the ground, so 
that there may be no misunderstanding, 
I next come to the consideration of the 
character of those who have the direction 
of the affairs of the society. I am very 
happy to see our chairman (Mr. S. 
Morley) here on this occasion. He is 
one of the trustees, and I need not tell 
you that he stands very well in Lombard 
Street. The other trustees are respons¬ 
ible men; not merely responsible in 
point of pecuniary circumstances, but 
men, any one of whom I should be 
happy, were I making my will to¬ 
morrow, to leave as trustees for my 
children, of every farthing I had in the 
world. This is the only test you can, 
with safety, apply. If you have not 
men, whose private characters will bear 
such a test as that, you had better have 
nothing at all to do with them in public 
matters. Besides the trustees, you have 
the board of directors. I have attended 
every meeting of the board of directors 
when in town, and there is not one of 
the gentlemen I have found at the board 
whom I should not be happy to meet in 
private life, and to call my friend. I 
believe, therefore, leaving myself, if you 
please, out of the question, that the 
affairs of the association are in truly 
responsible and honourable hands. And 
here I beg not to be misunderstood. 
We do not come here to puff ourselves 
off at the expense of other associations. 
There are other societies formed, or 
forming, and, no doubt, their directors 
are as trustworthy as those of our 
association. We are not so badly off in 
England that we cannot find honour 
and honesty enough for every situation 
in life. You will get the strictest integrity 
for 20s. a week, and as much as you 
wish to hire. 

It has been objected (and I confess 
there was some difficulty in my mind on 
the subject) that, in working an asso- 



1849- 


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. II. 


eiation of this kind, you may not be 
able to find freehold property, in con¬ 
venient situations, or of convenient size, 
to carry out the movement. There may 
be that difficulty; but there are diffi¬ 
culties in every useful undertaking in 
this world, and there always will be. 
lhose who make it their business to 
turn a green eye on our proceedings, 
will, no doubt, find plenty of diffi¬ 
culties; but, from every inquiry I have 
made, since my connection with the 
board of directors, I believe that there 
will be no insurmountable obstacle in 
working out our plan. It is perfectly 
true that, in seeking property, you may 
not find it at your own doors. If you 
live in a street in this metropolis, you 
may not be able to buy building-land in 
the immediate neighbourhood of your 
own residence, but you must be content 
to go farther from home, just as you 
would in other investments. One man 
buys Spanish bonds, andanother Russian 
and Austrian bonds. Others, again, 
buy railway shares, which are running 
all over the country, and some of them 
running away. But give me a freehold 
investment in the earth, which never 
does run away, and it does not matter 
whether it is in my own parish or not, 
so that I have good title-deeds, and 
receive my rent by the penny post, I 
need not care, then, whether I see it or 
not. With that proviso, that you cannot 
always get land at your own doors, I do 
not see any difficulty in qualifying a 
person in the county in which he resides, 
with a freehold franchise. Many people 
think, that the only object for which 
they should buy land is, to build a house 
upon it; but there are other ways of 
disposing of it. Gardens, for instance, 
than which nothing is more sure of a 
rent; for if you buy land in the neighbour¬ 
hood of any town, that land is always 
increasing in value; since, whatever the 
Corn-laws may have done to the agricul¬ 
turist, you may depend upon it that, if 
food be cheap, population will be 
increasing in towns, and land, in the 
neighbourhood of towns, will increase 
in value. Whatever the foreigner may 


SSi 

send us in the shape of wheat, he cannot 
send us garden-ground. 

Now, for the purpose of illustration, I 
will take the case of Surrey. Many of 
you, I have no doubt, come from the 
other side of the river. I will suppose, 
then, that our friend Mr. Russell, the 
indefatigable solicitor of this association, 
whom I have had the pleasure of know¬ 
ing and co-operating with for many years, 
has heard that there is a bit of land to 
be sold in the neighbourhood of Guild¬ 
ford. I will suppose that there is a farm, 
or one hundred acres of land, to be sold, 
within a mile or two of that town, and 
that Mr. Russell goes, with one of the 
directors, to look at it. They get a valuer 
to examine it; and, having learned the 
price at which this farm can be bought, 
they buy it; and then, instead of letting 
the hundred acres to one farmer, they 
determine to cut it up into plots of one 
or two acres. Now, if the shopkeepers 
and mechanics of the town were told that 
this land was to be let, I will venture to 
say that there is not one of the plots 
which would not let at the rate of 40 s. 
an acre. 

I know the avidity with which the 
peasantry of our towns and villages take 
half an acre or an acre of land. It is an 
article which is in greater demand than 
any other. I could find land in Wilt¬ 
shire, which is, I am sorry to say, let to 
the peasantry at the rate of 7/. or 8/. an 
acre. I am supposing that a person 
wished to buy as much land as would 
give him a county vote, but, living in a 
borough, did not require land for his 
own purposes. Such a person might 
let his acre of land for 401-., in the form 
of garden allotments, without any diffi¬ 
culty. 

And here I wish much to guard my¬ 
self against being supposed to counten¬ 
ance a very popular, but, in my opinion, 
a most pernicious delusion. I would 
not have it imagined that I am a party to 
the plan of transferring people from their 
employments in towns to live on an acre 
or two of land. If a person leaves a work¬ 
shop, a foundry, or a factory, and tries 
to live on even two or three acres of land, 







552 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


NOV. 20, 


why all I can say is, that he will be very 
glad to get back to his former occupation. 
No, no ; we have no such scheme as that. 
If a man has followed a particular pur¬ 
suit, whatever it may be, up to the age 
of five-and-twenty, and if he is still 
receiving wages or profit from that pur¬ 
suit, that man had better, as a general 
rule, follow his business than go to any 
other. In ninety-nine cases out of a 
hundred he will succeed better in that 
pursuit than in any other to which he 
can turn his hand. But what we say is 
this, that it is a very good thing for a 
man who is receiving weekly wages to 
have a plot of land in addition. Nothing 
can be more advantageous to people 
living in the country than to have, besides 
their weekly wages, a plot of ground on 
which they can employ themselves with 
the spade, when they have not other 
employment. With the proviso which I 
have mentioned—guarding myself against 
being supposed to be a party to the delu¬ 
sion to which I have alluded—I say, that 
if you have a freehold qualification in 
the neighbourhood of an agricultural 
town at a distance from you, but in the 
same county, even in that case the 
security will be good, the rent will be 
received, and the value of your plot of 
land will always be increasing instead of 
diminishing. If your object be to get a 
vote, and to have along with that vote 
a freehold property, even at the worst, 
if you cannot get a bit of garden-ground 
near the metropolis, you can always get 
it in the county. The freehold being 
in the county, you can claim to vote in 
any part of that division of the county. 
If the property be situated at one end, 
you can poll at the other. I have looked 
at this matter with some care, and, I 
will confess, with some suspicion ; and 
I must say that I see no difficulty in the 
way of everybody qualifying, and obtain¬ 
ing good security for his money. 

I have explained practically what is 
the object of this association; suppose I 
go a little more widely into the question. 
Leaving our immediate practical object 
to others who will follow me, and who 
will answer any questions that may be 


put to them, let us look at this matter 
generally. Now, here we are, standing 
in the ancient ways of our Constitution. 
Nobody can say that we are red re¬ 
publicans or revolutionists. Here we 
are, trying to bring back the people to 
the enjoyment of some of their ancient 
privileges. Why, we have dug into the 
depths of four centuries, at least, to find 
the origin of this 40J. freehold qualifica¬ 
tion. But now, as to the practicability 
of our plan, as a means of effecting 
great changes in the depository of poli¬ 
tical power in this country. That is 
the question. Can you by this means 
effect a great change in the depository 
of political power ? Because I avow to 
you that I want, by constitutional and 
legal means, to place, as far as I can, 
political power in this country in the 
hands of the middle and industrious 
classes; in other words, the people. 
When I speak of the middle and in¬ 
dustrious classes, I regard them, as I 
ever did, as inseparable in interest. 
You cannot separate them. I defy any 
person to draw the line where the one 
ends and the other begins. We are 
governed in this country—I have said 
this again and again, and I repeat it 
here to-night — we are governed, in 
tranquil and ordinary times, not by the 
will of the middle and industrious 
classes, but by classes and interests 
which are insignificant in numbers and 
in importance in comparison with the 
great mass of the people. Every session 
of Parliament, every six months that I 
spend in the House of Commons, con¬ 
vinces me more and more that we waste 
our time there—I mean the seventy or 
eighty men with whom I have been 
accustomed to vote in the House of 
Commons, and to whom your chairman 
has alluded in terms of so much kind¬ 
ness—I say, we waste our time in the 
House of Commons, if we do not, in 
the recess, come to the people, and tell 
them candidly that it depends upon 
them, and upon them alone, whether 
any essential amelioration or reform 
shall be effected in Parliament. I re¬ 
peat, that in ordinary times we are 




PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. II. 


5S3 


1849. 

governed by classes and interests, which 
are insignificant, in real importance, as 
regards the welfare of the country; and 
if we did not occasionally check them— 
if we did not, from time to time, by the 
upheaving of the mass of the people, 
turn them from their folly and their 
selfishness,—they would long ago have 
plunged this country in as great a state 
of confusion as has been witnessed in 
any country on the Continent. Take 
the class of men who are ordinarily 
returned by the agricultural counties of 
this country. What would they do, if 
you let them alone? Nay, what are 
they trying to do at this moment ? 
Why, at the very time, when even the 
Austrian Government is proposing to 
abandon the principle of high restrictive 
tariffs; when the Government of Russia 
has in hand a reduction of duties; when 
America has participated in the spirit of 
the times; when Spain, which some 
wicked wag has called the ‘beginning 
of Africa,’ has imitated the example set 
by Sir R. Peel three years ago; these 
county Members and Members for 
agricultural districts are thinking of 
nothing but how they may restore pro¬ 
tection. Surely such people must be 
the descendants of those inquisitors who 
put Galileo into prison! Galileo was 
imprisoned because he maintained that 
the physical world turned upon its axis, 
whereas these men insist that the moral 
world shall stand still; and, if left to 
themselves, they would soon reduce 
England to the state in which Austria 
is now. But is it a wholesome state of 
things, that nothing can be done in this 
country except by means of great con¬ 
gregations of the people forcing the 
so-called representatives of the people 
to something like justice and common 
sense in their legislation? Nothing of 
importance is ever done by Parliament 
until after a seven-years’ stand-up fight 
between the people on the one side, and 
those who call themselves the people’s 
representatives on the other. Now, 1 
say that this is an absurd state of things, 
and that, by constitutional and moral 
means, we must try to alter it; and I 


believe that we have now before us a 
means by which such an alteration can 
be effected. 

I am here speaking on a subject to 
which I have given much attention for 
many years. It is more than six years 
since it was attempted to secure the 
repeal of the Corn-laws by means of 
the 40^. franchise, as part of the tactics 
of the Anti-Corn-Law League. I should 
be sorry to claim to myself exclusively 
the merit of first suggesting it. I rather 
think that Mr. Charles Walker, of Roch¬ 
dale, recommended it before I announced 
it publicly. But from the moment that 
the plan devised was put forth at a great 
meeting in Manchester, I never doubted 
of the ultimate repeal of the Corn-laws; 
although until then I could never con¬ 
scientiously say that I saw a method by 
which we could legally and constitution¬ 
ally secure their abolition. I will give 
you the result of our labours at that 
time in two or three counties. You 
know that the West Riding of Yorkshire 
is considered the great index of public 
opinion in this country. In that great 
division, at present containing 37,000 
voters, Lord Morpeth was, as you are 
aware, defeated on the question of Free 
Trade, and two Protectionists were 
returned. I went into the West Riding 
with this 40J. freehold plan. I stated 
in every borough and district that we 
must have 5,000 qualifications made in 
two years. They were made. The silly 
people who opposed us raised the cry 
that the Anti-Corn-Law League had 
bought the qualifications. Such a cry 
was ridiculous. The truth was, that 
men qualified themselves, with a view 
of helping the League to obtain the 
repeal of the Corn-laws; and you are 
aware that, in consequence of this 
movement, Lord Morpeth walked over 
the course at the next election. We 
followed the same plan in South Lanca¬ 
shire, and with a similar result. Our 
friends walked over the course at the 
next election, although at the previous 
one we had not a chance. My friend, 
the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke 
King), joined us in carrying out our 




554 


SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN. 


nov. 26, 


plan in his division; and its adoption 
was there also attended with success. 
I am not sure that it would not have 
been better in some respects if the Corn- 
laws had not been repealed so soon— 
though of course I should like to have 
had them suspended for three or four 
years; for in that case we should have 
carried half the counties of England. 
Now, when I came back from the 
Continent, after the repeal of the Corn- 
laws, I told my friends—(I have never 
disguised my feelings from that day to 
this)—as the result of constant reflection 
for several years, ‘ If you want to take 
another step, constitutionally and legally, 
you must do it through the 401-. freehold; 
by no other process will you succeed.’ 

Let us talk this matter over, as men 
of common sense. Ask yourselves how 
do you purpose to obtain reforms? Do 
you intend to try violence and fighting ? 
No, no; you see the result of that 
everywhere that it has been tried. 
Violence does no good to those who 
resort to it. I do not mean to blame 
those in other countries, who have not 
the right of meeting in assemblies like 
this, if they do not pursue the same 
course that we do. I do not blame 
them, because, being without experience, 
and not being permitted to gain experi¬ 
ence, they do not succeed, when they 
make a bold and sudden trial of con¬ 
stitutional forms. No; I leave those to 
blame them, who will blame us equally, 
for adopting constitutional means. The 
very same parties who are now so in¬ 
tolerant, with regard to the failure of 
Hungarians, and Italians, and Germans, 
were the constant assailants of my 
friends and myself, at the early stage of 
the League agitation. Every species of 
abuse, every sort of misrepresentation, 
every kind of suppression, was resorted 
to by them, until we became strong; 
and when we were both strong and 
fashionable, we were beslavered with 
their praise ; and I confess I liked it 
less than their abuse. No ; we do not 
come here to censure other countries. 
England is under no necessity for resort¬ 
ing to force or violence. Our ancestors 


did all that for us, and they were obliged 
to do it. During the greater part of the 
seventeenth century, England presented 
a scene of commotion almost as great 
as that which has been witnessed in 
Hungary, Germany, and Italy; and to 
the great sacrifices then made, we owe 
almost all the liberties we possess at 
present. But to go back to the kind of 
warfare pursued in the seventeenth 
century, would be to descend from the 
high position, which, at the expense of 
so many sufferings, our ancestors ob¬ 
tained for us. 

But as everybody admits that we must 
not go into the streets to fight, let me 
ask my friends what other step they 
intend to take ? Petition Parliament! 
Petition Parliament to reform itself! 
Why, no; the clubs would not like that; 
it would not suit their cards. Nobody 
thinks of getting a reform of Parliament 
by petitioning. Well, then, how are 
you to get it ? I find that every person is 
brought to the same dead lock, as regards 
substantial reform or real retrenchment, 
that I was in when, in 1843, I sat down 
to think of the freehold movement. You 
must aim at the accomplishment of your 
object, through the plan which the Con¬ 
stitution has left open to you. Men of 
common sense, when they have a certain 
thing to do, look round for instruments 
for effecting their purpose. In other 
countries, men who resort to physical 
force, always adopt that plan. They 
adapt their tactics to the physical features 
of the country. If the people of Swit¬ 
zerland have to fight for their liberties, 
they retire to the mountains, and there 
defend them ; in Hungary, the army of 
the people, retreating beyond barren 
heaths, puts two rivers between itself 
and the enemy; while the patriots of 
Plolland in former days cut their dykes 
and let in the water to drown their 
enemies. These are the means adopted 
by parties who have to use physical force. 
What are we to do, who have to fight 
with moral force ? Why, here is a door 
open, which is so expansive that it will 
admit all who have the means of qualify¬ 
ing themselves through 40^. freeholds. 



1849. 


PARLIAMENTARY REFORM. II. 


These are our tactics—these are our 
mountains — these our sandy plains — 
these our dykes. We must fight the 
enemy by means of the 405. freehold. 

Now, what chance have we of suc¬ 
ceeding ? I have paid a great deal of 
attention to this subject, and I shall 
proceed to trouble you with a very few 
figures, from which you will be astonished 
to find how little you have to do. We 
have as near as possible at this moment a 
million of registered electors for the whole 
kingdom. According to a valuable return 
made on the motion of Mr. Williams, 
the late Member for Coventry, the total 
number of county votes on the register 
in 1847 was 512,300. What proportion 
of them do you suppose are the votes 
of occupying tenants? 108,790. All 
that boasted array of force, which con¬ 
stitutes the basis of landlord power in 
this country, and about which we have 
frightened ourselves so much, amounts 
only to 108,790 tenants-at-will in the 
fifty-two counties of England and Wales. 
Why, half the money spent in gin in one 
year would buy as many county freeholds 
as would counterpoise these 108,790 
tenant-farmers. What resources have we 
to aid us in the process of qualifying for 
these counties? I shall surprise you 
again, when I inform you how very few 
people there are who are qualified for 
the counties. I will take, for illustration, 
three or four of the counties at random. 
There is Hampshire: there are in 
Hampshire, according to the last census, 
93,908 males above twenty years old. 
The registered electors in the same county 
amount to 9,223; so that only one-tenth 
of the adult males are upon the register, 
and 84,685 are not upon it. In Sussex, 
there are of males above twenty years old, 
76,676; of registered electors only 9,211, 
or one-eighth of the entire number of 
adult males : 67,466 adult males are not 
voters. Take the purely agricultural 
county of Berkshire, which has 43,126 
males above twenty years old ; 5,241, or 
one-eighth, was the number of registered 
electors; 37,885 are not voters for the 
county. In Middlesex, the numbers I 
find are as follows :—males above twenty 


355 

years old, 434,181 ; registered electors, 
! 3 > 78 l, or one-seventeenth ; 420,400 
not being voters. In Surrey, the males 
amount to 154,633; of these, 9,800, or 
one-sixteenth, is the proportion of regis¬ 
tered electors ; and thus 144,833 are not 
voters. Why, if only one in ten of the 
men who are not qualified to vote in 
London and Southwark, would purchase 
votes in the neighb