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den's position, and tended to his one for the reorganisation of our
of food - supplies, and now take some notice of the part which led to the preference of a which he played in the conflict. It sliding-scale to a fixed duty. Hus- was in October 1838 that the Antikisson's legislation, by its fallacious Corn-Law Association was founded principles not less than its disas- in Manchester; and from that date trous results, had excited a dissatis- down to the period of repeal, Cobfied spirit of inquiry into the Corn den may be said to have devoted his Laws; while the fact that he had whole time and energy to pressing practically withdrawn Protection the question. He had the example from commerce to retain it to agri- of the successful agitation of O'Conculture, gave the traders a griev- nell—who had stood godfather to ance that was only too well found- him when he at first failed to carry ed. The Duke of Wellington had Stockport—before his eyes; and he carried a bill on Canning's prin- laid bis plans very much on the same ciple" of making the duty vary lines as those on which Catholic inversely with the price of grain in emancipation had been urged forthe home market.”. In practice, ward until it became a subject that the Duke's bill fixed the duty at a party Government could not re23s. 8d. when the price of wheat fuse to deal with. During the three in the home market was 64s. years preceding the fall of the Mel“Thus, when wheat was at 698., bourne Ministry, the paid lecturers the duty was 16s. 8d.; and when of the League had been endeavourthe home price rose to 73s., then ing to stir up feeling in favour of the duty fell to the nominal rate Free Trade all over the country, of ls. This was the Corn Law but had met with little success which Cobden and his friends rose outside the manufacturing districts, up to overthrow." No doubt and no impression had been made many objections might justly be upon any of the leading organs of taken both to the principle of public opinion. In the general the bill and the incidence of the election of 1841, a small number rates, and many arguments might of repealers got into the House ; have been adduced for the Whig and among others, Cobden was realternative of a fixed duty. In turned for Stockport. He at once fact, the time when Cobden' began spoke on the subject of Free Trade, to agitate was a most favourable in the debate which led to the
break-up of Lord Melbourne's Gov- many as the points of resemblance. ernment, but did not obtain much If in Mr. Bright there was a deeper attention for his views. He is, austerity, in both there was the same however, as confident in himself homeliness of allusion, and the same as contemptuous of his opponents. Stilted abstractions of rhetoric, and
graphic plainness. Both avoided the my friends
I did well. neither was ever afraid of the vulgarity But I feel it very necessary to be of details. In Cobden, as in Bright, we cautious in speaking too much.” feel that there was nothing personal or He was answered by “a booby small, and that what they cared for so who let fly at the manufacturers.
vehemently were great causes. There Shortly after, he writes of his oppo- small things of party, which would be
was a resolute standing aloof from the nents as young obscures,"
young almost arrogant, if the whole texture fry,” classicals,” “noodles ;” and of what they had to say were less although the youngest of legisla- thoroughly penetrated with political tors, he places himself at the outset morality, and with humanity. Then upon a comparatively lofty altitude there came the points of difference. among his fellow-members of Parlia- Mr. Bright had all the resources of ment. Although, perhaps, the least passion alive within his breast. He narrow and most tolerant of the
was carried along by vehement politiManchester agitators, Cobden had glowed a'wrath as stern as that of an
cal anger, and deeper than that there all the intense contempt for any ancient prophet. To cling to a misone who could hold a view opposite chievous error seemed to him to savour to his own, which has become one of moral depravity and corruption of of the most marked characteristics heart. What he saw was the selfishof present-day Radicalism, and of ness of the aristocracy and the landwhich we may point to the volumes lords, and he was too deeply moved before us as bearing unimpeachable by hatred of this, to care to deal testimony.
very patiently with the bad reasoning
which their own self-interest inclined It was not until Messrs. Cobden his adversaries to mistake for good. and Bright took to the country His invective was not the expression to agitate, that the principles of of mere irritation, but of profound the League began to make head- and menacing passion. Hence he way. Mr. Morley sees in the pic- dominated his audiences from a ture of “two plain men leaving their height, while his companion rather homes and their business, and go- and equals. Cobden was by no means
drew them along after him as friends ing over the length and breadth incapable of passion, of violent feelof the land to convert the nation,” ing, or of vehement expression. His * something apostolic.” In one re- fighting qualities were in their own spect, the parallel does not hold way as formidable as Mr. Bright's; good, for the League was already and he had a way of dropping his raising and spending enormous
jaw and throwing back his head, when
he took off his gloves for an encounter sums in promoting the spread of
in good earnest, which was not less its principles. We must quote Mr. alarming to his opponents than the Morley's contrast of these latter-day more sombre style of his colleague. apostles :
Still it was not passion to which we
inust look for the secret of his orato“ It has often been pointed out how rical success.
I have asked many the two great spokesmen of the League scores of those who knew him, Conwere the complements of one another; servatives as well as Liberals, what how their gifts differed so that one this secret was; and in no single case exactly covered the ground which the did my interlocutor fail to begin, and other was predisposed to leave com- in nearly every case he ended as he paratively untouched. The differences had begun, with the word persuasivebetween them, it is true, were not so ness."
We may descend from “stilted Morley tells us that Cobden had at abstractions” to the concrete dif- the beginning of the movement ference between the two, and plain- been“ very near securing the serly say that Mr. Cobden cajoled while vices” of Thackeray, who was then Mr. Bright bullied the masses. But a struggling littérateur, with no bettheir campaign was only attended ter reputation to back him up than by moderate success, and Mr. Mor- his authorship of the Great Hogley greatly overestimates the impres- garty Diamond.' sion they produced on the country. "Some inventor of a new mode Instead of the sight of the “two of engraving,' Mr. Henry Cole wrote plain men” calling forth the lofty to Cobden, told Mr. Thackeray that feelings that are suggested in the it was applicable to the designs for
the Corn Laws. Three drawings of above extract, their progress seems your Anglo-Polish Allegory have been to have been more generally treated made and have failed. "So Thackeray with ridicule. They drew large has given up the invention, and woodmeetings of the workmen, and were engraving must be used. This will supported by manufacturers and materially alter the expense. . . . I traders in the towns which they hope you will think as well of the acvisited; but it cannot be said that companying sketch-very rough, of they succeeded in investing the It was the work of only a few minutes,
course—as all I have shown it to do. movement with a national char- and I think, with its corpses, gibbet, acter. In September 1842, Cobden and flying carrion-crow, is as suggeshimself admitted that they had suc- tive as you can wish. We both thought ceeded in producing nothing beyond that a common soldier would be better a middle-class agitation. “We have understood than any more allegorical carried it on by those means by figure. It is only in part an adaptawhich the middle class usually
tion of your idea, but I think a suc
cessful one. carries on its movements.
Figures representing We
eagerness of exchange, a half-clothed have had our meetings of Dissent- Pole offering bread, and a weaver ing ministers; we have obtained manufactures, would be idea enough the co-operation of the ladies; we for a design alone. Of course, there have resorted to tea-parties, and may be any changes you please in this taken those pacific means for carry- present design. I think, for the muling out our views which mark us
titude, it would be well to have the rather as a middle-class set of agi- all. The artist is a genius, both with
ideas very simple and intelligible to tators."
his pencil and his pen. His vocation Among other“ middle class” ex- is literary. He is full of humour and pedients of the League, pictorial feeling. Hitherto he has not bad ocrepresentation occupied a promin- casion to think much on the subject ent place, generally taking the form of Corn Laws, and therefore wants of bloated farmers and of labourers the stuff to work upon. He would starved to skeletons, with gibbets drawing when sufficiently primed,
like to combine both writing and and pendent bodies understood to and then he would write and illushave been consigned there by the trate ballads, or tales, or anything. tyranny of the upper classes, and I think you would find him a most with abundant representations of effective auxiliary; and perhaps the death's-heads, cross-bones, and other best way to fill him with matter for relics of mortality suggestive of the illustrations, would be to invite him people perishing under the influence to see the weavers, their mills, shutof the Corn Laws. Connected with perhaps you will return it to me, and
tles, et-cetera. If you like the sketch, this subject there is a passage that I will put it in the way of being enwe cannot read without pain. Mr. graved.""
We trust the alliance was never paign of 1845, nearly £90,000 concluded, otherwise the omission was raised before the end of 1844. of some very important chapters In 1845, the League's expenses in the Book of Snobs' would be were £1000 a-week. And yet, in readily accounted for.
the opinion of the League itself, the There was, however, another agitation was not making headway means employed, which, quite as in spite of this immense outlay. In much as oratory and tea-meetings, the times of depression amid which was likely to popularise the question. the League had been started, it had We are told that in the course of met with much warm and general the four years the League had been sympathy; but with the return of at work, from the beginning of prosperity after 1843, the agitation 1839 to the autumn of 1843, cooled down,-a significant intima£100,000 had been spent in agi- tion that present relief rather than tation.
The Council then made perpetual advantage was expected up its mind to raise a new fund from the principles of Free Trade. of £50,000, which was speedily It was felt that a change of tactics collected. It must strike every was necessary. Persuasion was not impartial mind that the principles doing the work; and Cobden was of Free Trade could have had but planning a scheme for swamping very slender hold of the opinions the votes of the connties by the of the country when such an enor- creation of forty - shilling freemous expenditure was required to holders, in which not less than ripen them. “The scheme which £250,000 were invested ” in 1845. we especially aim at carrying out," While at about the same time it writes Cobden, in a letter to Mr. was resolved to depend rather on Edward Baines, begging him to agitation in Parliament than on raise funds in the West Riding, an effort to rouse the feeling of “is this: To make an attack upon the country. every registered elector of the king- It is one of the disadvantages dom, county and borough, by send- connected with government by ing to each a packet of publications party, that when a movement in embracing the whole argument as the country attains a certain power, it affects both the agricultural and one or other of the divisions in the trading view of the question. But Legislature will swallow its scruples the plan involves an expense of and turn it to capital, apart alto£20,000. Add to this our in- gether from its real views regarding creased expenditure in lectures, the merits involved. So it was in &c., and the contemplated cost of the case of Free Trade. The Whigs the spring deputations in London, were fully as inimical to its princiand we shall require £50,000 to ples as were the Tories. The abuse do justice to the cause before next which Mr. Cobden pours upon the June.” In the course of next year Whigs is only surpassed by the "500 persons were employed in contempt which his biographer exdistributing tracts from house to presses for the same party. Both house." Five millions of these Whigs and Tories regarded the Free tracts, “weighing a hundred tons Traders with distrust almost down of paper”– Mr. Morley makes no to the very time when, in shifty cirallowance for the additional weight cumstances, they each saw an opporafter printing—“had been scat- tunity of turning the movement to tered over the kingdom.” Out of individual account.
It certainly £100,000 demanded for the cam- was not any great national feeling that the League had succeeded of their policy. He felt all the in rousing upon the question of economical difficulties which atFree Trade, neither was it the tached to the sliding-scale; perpower which the Free Traders had haps he felt still more the political acquired in Parliament, that com- obstructions which stood between pelled the Legislature to listen to him and a fixed duty. On the their demands. It was because whole, his course in 1842, when Free Trade could be made a means he declared for a modification of either turning out a Govern- of Canning's sliding-scale prinment or of strengthening a Minis- ciple, and for reducing in a slight try, that the policy of the League degree the protection enjoyed by was adopted as a legitimate Parlia- agriculturists in favour of consummentary subject.
ers, is perfectly intelligible. The We have no intention of defend- weak position which he took up ing the course that Sir Robert naturally exposed him to the atPeel took throughout the Corn Law tacks of those who were Protecagitation; but at the same time, tionists by conviction, as well as there is much that may be urged in of those who fought the battle extenuation of his conduct. He of Protection on purely personal was statesman enough to recognise grounds. Mr. Morley dates the the difficulties which the Govern- change in Peel's mind from the ment had to face in dealing with Report of the Import Duties Comthe duties on food imports; but he mittee of 1840. We cannot accept had not the courage or the ability this view without qualifications. that was required to dissipate the In spite of Peel's proclivities todelusions of the Leaguers, and to wards a commercial policy-in spite put the question upon a fair and of his natural dissatisfaction with reasonable footing. We must add the existing tariff, and his despair to this that Peel's mind was largely of being able to satisfy all parties leavened by the commercial view by a revision-we have no reason of policy, and that he looked upon to believe that Peel seriously cona transfer of power from the landed templated the acceptance of the classes to the great industrialists” programme of the League as a part as inevitable. This hypothesis, of Ministerial policy until towards which can with little difficulty be the close of 1845. On 22d Nosubstantiated, explains the grounds vember in that year, Lord John of Peel's veering upon the questions Russell, in a manifesto dated from of Free Trade. While the “brut- Edinburgh, announced the adoption ish squires and bull-frogs," the of the League principles by the “noodles," " obscures,” and “class- Whig party; and this declaration, icals”—to quote Mr. Cobden- affecting as it did vitally the posispoke from a plain common-sense tion, of his Ministry, practically point of view of the changes which made Sir Robert Peel bow to the their experience of agriculture told behests of the agitators. We need them must come over the landed not discuss the morality of Peel's interests, Peel never faced the main position any more than that of Lord issues involved, but quibbled with John Russell's. Neither will stand the League upon questions of fin- the application of a high test; and of ance, and rather sought to ridicule the two, that of Lord John Russell their arguments than to point out and the Whigs who looked for office what would be the natural effects will bear the least inspection. There