« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
were many circumstances apart from bind Cobden the agitator, although the bent of his personal views, that Cobden and the League might have would go a considerable
in lectured and spent money for an justifying Sir Robert Peel. The indefinite number of years longer, , Protectionists distrusted him, and had not one or both of the great baited him in the House, not only parties in Parliament resolved to upon their own grounds, but upon take advantage of the agitation in others on which we are inclined to furtherance of purely party interthink they might have patriotically ests. Cobden confesses that the accorded him their support; and country had been subjected to the there was an element of bitterness gigantic influences of the League in his position as a Minister that for a period of some seven years predisposes men's minds to change. without making itself heard upon In Peel's case Free Trade was, as the subject with a distinctness Mr. Disraeli declared it to be, not that would have compelled any a principle but an expedient. The Ministry to listen to its wishes. Irish famine came opportunely for
The fact should not be forgotten the Free-Traders, to quicken both that Free Trade was carried, not the Minister's conversion and the in response to a definite national action of the Opposition; and it sentiment, but as a means of bolafforded Peel the excuse which he stering up Sir Robert Peel's Govwas perhaps waiting for, of buy- ernment; and if any one doubt the ing the support of the League to fact, let him read Mr. Morley's two his staggering Government. It is volumes. impossible to trace any reasona- Mr. Morley has told us that the ble course of principle throughout Free Trade struggle aimed at disPeel's conduct, except that of polit- placing the landed aristocracy to ical self-preservation; and although make room for the “great industrihe embraced the dogmas of Free alists."
alists." His Life of Cobden' also Trade, it cannot be said that he enables us to estimate at its true ever evinced more than a feeble and worth another of the favourite prohalf-hearted belief in them, except fessions of the League. Cobden when he was driven by the Pro- posed as a farmer's friend, the son tectionists to stand upon the defen- of a farmer, and one who had the sive. He had no faith in the great interests of agriculture quite as moral revolution which Cobden much at heart as those of trade. prophesied Free Trade would bring Yet he had sufficient penetration to about. Nor had he a sufficient foresee the severe struggle to which answer for the warnings which America, with its vast food
prothe Protectionists uttered of dan- ducing powers, would expose this gers that must fall upon the land country, and he prophesied that, and the food - producing industries within twenty years of 1835, the of the country. He was still to commercial importance of America float for some time upon the wave would be more dreaded in England of popularity which his conversion than the military power of Russia. to Free Trade had stirred up; but Yet no one has done so much as his character as a statesman had Cobden himself did to aid American sustained a shock from which it was to supplant English industry; and destined never to recover. Even his political penetration in this case his position as the conceder of Free only detracts from his cautiousness Trade stands far in the shade be- as a statesman. His sanguine disposi
tion, which led him to bring his own recommendation of keeping the affairs to rack and ruin as often markets open; and no sacrifice was as his friends had put them right too great to offer, no aggression was for him, led him to think that too severe to be forgiven, in order Britain had only to set the example that we might keep on good terms of Free Trade to lead all the nations with our neighbours, especially if of the world in her train. But these neighbours were considerthough other countries gladly avail- able consumers of British exports. ed themselves of the doctrine, so far Russia was an early and constant as British markets were concerned, object of his adoration; and though they held by their own tariffs, and he could not shut his eyes to her very soon taught the world to abuse of her strength, he would understand that the only practi- allow her to hold on her aggressive cable approach towards Free Trade way unchecked so long as her ports is to be made through Protection. were kept open. Of treaty obliga
The other side of Cobden's politi- tions Cobden recked nothing, and cal life is mainly made up of his he would have had Britain draw championship of what has been herself like a snail within her called withont much exaggeration shell, and wait until the first heavy the principles of peace at any foot that fell upon her crushed price.” Here we are much more out her national existence. He conscious of the narrowness of his would even have had her to give intellect, than even in his promo- up her foreign possessions; and he tion of a commercial policy. He was absolutely furious
the had from early life a holy horror retention of Gibraltar. “ England of armaments, which to him meant for fifty years at Gibraltar is a simply so much money misspent spectacle of brute violence. that might have been applied to Upon no principle of morality," the reduction of national taxation, he went on, “can this unique and the energies of so many men outrage upon the integrity of an withdrawn from the labour-market
. ancient, powerful, and renowned In a visit to the Levant in 1837, nation be justified: the example, if he mourns over the ships of war imitated, instead of being shunned that he sees at Valetta, and the universally, would throw all the men who, “to the number of six, nations of the earth into barbarous seven, or eight hundred, are put anarchy.” Inspired by this denunto such exercise or employment as ciation, bis biographer throws the the ingenuity of the first lieuten- mantle of prophecy over his shoulant can devise on board ship, or der, and observes: “Here, as elseelse are suffered to wander on shore where, we see how wrong is the upon occasional leaves of absence. begetter of wrong; for if EngThis is not the way either to make land had not possessed Gibraltar, good sailors or to add to the power she would not have been tempted of the British empire. The ex- to pursue that turbulent policy in penses are borne by the industry the Mediterranean which is still of the productive classes at home. likely one day to cost her dear.” The wages of these idlers are paid We shall not follow Mr. Morley out of the taxes levied upon the into the regions of vaticination; soap, beer, and tobacco, &c., con- but if we look back to the past, we sumed by the people of England;" shall find that it was language simiand so on. Peace had the great larly imbecile that involved us in the Crimean war, and that not so The House would not hearken long ago, amid shouts of “Perish to Cobden more than to the other India!" would have plunged us in- peace-at-any-price politicians; but to difficulties in Eastern Europe, had that did not prevent either him or not strong hands held the destinies them from doing much national of the nation. 'As Cobden had a mischief. They did their utmost panacea in Free Trade for the com- to make the masses believe that the mercial and industrial evils of na- best safeguard for peace was to leave tions, so by arbitration he was to the country open to invasion; they settle all international difficulties, talked at their peace congresses at and supplement universal Free home and on the Continent as if the Trade by universal Peace. “You sole representation of English opinseem puzzled about my motion in ion had become centred in themfavour of international arbitration," selves; and they led the foreign be writes to George Combe, the Powers to imagine that with Free Edinburgh phrenologist, in whose Trade the British people had actutheories Cobden was a devout be- ally sunk into a nation of shopliever.
keepers. By their loose talk and .“ Perhaps you have mixed it up pacific demonstrations Cobden and with other theories to which I am no his friends had not less to do with party. My plan does not embrace the plunging Russia into the Crimean scheme of a congress of nations, or war than had the blunders of the imply the belief in the millennium, or Aberdeen Cabinet. Yet he would demand your homage to the principle have bad the Government indulge of non-resistance. I simply propose in protests at times, as when Russia that England should offer to enter into invaded Hungary, or when the Czar an agreement with other countriesFrance, for instance-binding them to and the Emperor demanded the exrefer any dispute that may arise to tradition of the Hungarian rebels arbitration. I do not mean, to refer the that had taken refuge in the terrimatter to another sovereign Power, tories of the Porte. Wiser statesbut that each party should appointmen, however, knew that such a plenipotentiaries in the form of com- protest, without force to back it up, missioners, with a proviso for calling would simply render the nation in arbitrators in case they cannot agree."
ridiculous. Throughout Lord Pal
merston's career, Cobden was a deCobden entirely overlooked the termined opponent of his foreign probability, that as new courts policy, as indeed he would have breed new litigation, so the estab- been of the foreign policy of any lishment of a system of arbitration British Minister. It must be adwould create new international diffi- mitted that after the influence culties, which would have had to which the Free Trade movement be smothered on one side or the had secured him began to fade other if there was a risk of war away under Repeal, Cobden sank springing from their being put for- to the level of a mere meddler in ward. It was perhaps fortunate politics; and that the House could for Cobden that he did not live to expect no practical gain from his see arbitration secure peace at the counsels. Soon both he and his cost of injustice in the case of the friend Mr. Bright were made to feel Alabama award, otherwise his faith the verdict of British opinion upon in his plan must have been con- thcir want of both patriotism and siderably shaken.
common-sense. At the general
election of 1857, both Cobden and Ambassador, and M. Chevalier Mr. Bright received crushing de- urged Cobden to undertake the feats at the poll; and Cobden made subject. Mr. Morley seems anxiup his mind that “so long as I was ous to credit Mr. Bright with the in political life, should a war again authorship of the suggestion; but break out between England and a he admits that the "idea was in great Power, I would never open the air." But it was from France my mouth upon the subject from that the wind blew; and as was to the time the first gun was fired be expected, when Cobden underuntil peace was made”—a wise re- took a private mission to convert solution, which cannot be too highly the Emperor, his task was not a commended to the imitation of all difficult one. Napoleon had made peace-at-any-price agitators.
up his mind to have a commercial We can only notice one other treaty, even at the risk of irritating important part in Mr. Cobden's the French Protectionists. Cobpublic career; and it was the last den found the approaches to the great measure in which he partici- Emperor open to him, all the Minpated. In this country we are ac- isters gracious and obliging, and customed to give Cobden the entire
entire Napoleon himself exhibiting only credit of the French Commercial that amount of coyness that gave Treaty; but the suggestion was Cobden an excuse for explaining due to the French. The well- away difficulties and for pressing founded mistrust of the Third Napo- his principles. There was no occaleon found an open expression both sion for diplomacy; and we canin the House of Commons and in the not help thinking that Cobden press, which Cobden and his faction himself, as well as his biographer, did their best to stile. Now that overestimates the importance of the policy of the Second Empire the part the former played in the has been in a great measure laid negotiations. Indeed the fact that bare, we see that the public Cobden became the negotiator of a was right and Cobden wrong about commercial treaty was a complete the danger from France,-not that departure from his policy of Free Napoleon entertained any direct Trade. His position was, that by hostility towards this country, but means of a commercial treaty the that his devious and shifty schemes way would be paved towards Free of Continental policy might have Trade in France; but even for this at any time compelled Britain to as- object he was, according to his own sume a hostile attitude towards him. standard, doing evil that good A sovereign in Napoleon's unstable might come. That the treaty position could not afford to treat has been of substantial benefit to with contempt the suspicion with French industry no one will deny; which his position was viewed in that British manufactures have Britain, and he was anxious, if pos- benefited by it seems more than sible, to make friendly approaches. doubtful, if we may trust the Considering how commercial views evidence tendered quite recently predominate in our national policy, to the Commissioners engaged in he thought a commercial treaty the revision of the treaty. In was one of the readiest means of fine, twenty years' experience of securing the confidence of the Brit- the treaty leaves France even ish middle classes. Lord John more disposed to Protection than Russell was sounded by the French she was before, if we may judge by
the difficulties which have twice the moral question involved that the postponed the negotiations for re- cause for which Cobden was strugvision, and which would not improb- gling might be great and glorious ably lead to the retirement of the and disinterested. His ethical posiGladstone Government from the tion was not one whit better than project, but for its dread of the
that of a grocer who gets into the Fair Trade feeling receiving an im- "Gazette ' by neglecting his shop to petus in consequence. And twenty run about the country agitating for years' experience of the treaty has the release of the Claimant. After only served to stamp it as a very Free Trade was won, Cobden, whose mediocre piece of statesmanship, affairs seem to have been getting with all its promises unfulfilled, and worse instead of mending, was preall its disadvantages aggravated. sented by his admirers with a large
We are obliged to say a word sum of money, “between seventyabout Cobden's personal fortunes. five and eighty thousand pounds." The subject is not a pleasant one, Mr. Morley thinks “it is not necesbut it must necessarily enter into sary to enter into a discussion of the an estimate of his political charac- propriety of Cobden's acceptance" of ter. An attempt has been made to this “ testimonial”; and we on our draw a parallel between Cobden part have no wish to dwell on a and Pitt, who shattered his private matter which is as distasteful to us resources in attending to the public as it apparently is to his biographer. service of the country. The two But it pertains to our estimate of cases are as different as can well Cobden's public capacity to inquire be. Cobden's only claim to pub- how he disposed of this fortune. lic attention when he first came The same sanguine spirit which had forward, rested on the fact that he led him in 1835 to make speculawas a man of business; and people tive purchases of land in Mancheswere inclined to give him their ter, expecting that factories, streets, confidence on the supposition that and squares would spring up on the one who had created a great busi- blocks as by the wand of an enness out of nothing must surely be chanter, misled him in his disposal a person of sound financial abilities, of the means with which the public and as such capable of giving good had presented him. • For five-andadvice regarding the economical twenty years waste spaces between policy of Government. But what Victoria Park and Rusholme, in are the facts ? In 1845, when he Quay Street and Oxford Street, bore was on the point of winning his melancholy testimony to a miscalcugreat Free Trade victory, he was on lation; and for five-and-twenty years the verge of bankruptcy. From this Cobden paid a thousand pounds ahe was rescued by Mr. Bright and year in the shape of chief rent for a one or two other friends, “who pro- property which thus brought him cured the sum of money which suf- not a shilling of return." His “misficed to tide over the emergency." calculation" was not less disastrous The reason of this distress is set when he got the testimonial into down to Cobden's having devoted his hands. Part of the money was himself to the cause of Free Trade to happily invested in the purchase of the neglect of his private business. the farm of Dunford, in West SusSuch a course, it must be felt, dis- sex, which had once belonged to his tinctly detracts from a man's per- grandfather; but with the rest he sonal character. It is nothing to speculated in shares of the Illinois