Richard Cobden

Richard
Cobden
1804
1865

English Statesman, Economist and Manufacturer

Author Quotes

You who shall liberate the land will do more for your country than we have done in the liberation of its trade.

You had reached a pessimistic view about your company's prospects with the upcoming (copyright) case.

You have seized upon the most important of our social and political questions in the laws affecting the transfer of land. It is astonishing that the people at large are so tacit in their submission to the perpetuation of the feudal system in this country as it affects the property in land, so long after it has been shattered to pieces in every other country except Russia. The reason is, I suppose, that the great increase of our manufacturing system has given such an expansive system of employment to the population, that the want of land as a field of investment and employment for labor has been comparatively little felt. So long as this prosperity of our manufactures continues, there will be no great outcry against the landed monopoly. If adversity were to fall on the nation, your huge feudal properties would soon be broken up, and along with them the hereditary system of government under which contentedly live and thrive.

You may keep Turkey on the map of Europe, you may call the country by the name of Turkey if you like, but do not think you can keep up the Mahommedan rule in the country.

We are on the eve of great changes... We have set an example to the world in all ages; we have given them the representative system. The very rules and regulations of this House have been taken as the model for every representative assembly throughout the whole civilized world; and having besides given them the example of a free press and civil and religious freedom, and every institution that belongs to freedom and civilization, we are now about giving a still greater example; we are going to set the example of making industry free?to set the example of giving the whole world every advantage of clime, and latitude, and situation, relying ourselves on the freedom of our industry. Yes, we are going to teach the world that other lesson. Don't think there is anything selfish in this, or anything at all discordant with Christian principles. I can prove that we advocate nothing but what is agreeable to the highest behests of Christianity. To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest. What is the meaning of the maxim? It means that you take the article which you have in the greatest abundance, and with it obtain from others that of which they have the most to spare; so giving to mankind the means of enjoying the fullest abundance of earth's goods, and in doing so, carrying out to the fullest extent the Christian doctrine of 'Doing to all men as ye would they should do unto you'.

Well, our forefathers abolished this system [of monopolies]; at a time, too, mark you, when the sign manual of the sovereign had somewhat of a divine sanction and challenged superstitious reverence in the minds of the people. And shall we, the descendants of those men, be found so degenerate, so unworthy of the blood that flows in our veins, so recreant to the very name 'Englishman,' as not to shake off this incubus, laid on as it is by a body of our fellow-citizens? ... We advocate the abolition of the Corn Law because we believe that to be the foster-parent of all other monopolies; and if we destroy that?the parent, the monster monopoly?it will save us the trouble of devouring the rest.

Whilst we are in a state of profound peace, it is for you, the taxpayers, to decide whether you will run the risk of war, and keep your money in your pockets, or allow an additional number of men in red coats to live in idleness under the pretense of protecting you.

Yes; I am indebted for that estate, and I am proud here to acknowledge it, to the bounty of my countrymen. That estate was the scene of my birth and of my infancy; it was the property of my ancestors; it is by the munificence of my countrymen that this small estate, which had been alienated by my father from necessity, has again come into my hands, and that I am enabled to light up again the hearth of my fathers; and I say that there is no warrior duke who owns a vast domain by the vote of the Imperial Parliament who holds his property by a more honourable title than that by which I possess mine.

The foreign customers who visit our markets are not brought hither through fears of the power of influence of British diplomats... It is solely from the promptings of self-interest.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is?in extending our commercial relations?to have with them as little political connection as possible.

The idea of defending, as integral parts of our Empire, countries 10,000 miles off, like Australia, which neither pay a shilling to our revenue...nor afford us any exclusive trade...is about as quixotic a specimen of national folly as was ever exhibited.

The people of the two nations [France and England] must be brought into mutual dependence by the supply of eachothers' wants. There is no other way of counteracting the antagonism of language and race. It is God's own method of producing an entente cordiale, and no other plan is worth a farthing.

The principles of political economy have elevated the working class above the place they ever filled before.

The twelve or fifteen millions in the British Empire, who, while they possess no electoral rights, are yet persuaded they are freemen, and who are mystified into the notion that they are not political bondmen, by that great juggle of the ?English Constitution??a thing of monopolies, and Church-craft, and sinecures, armorial hocus-pocus, primogeniture, and pageantry!

Throughout the long agitation for Free Trade, the most earnest men co-operated with us were those who constantly advocated Free Trade, not merely on account of the material which it would bring to the community, but for the far loftier motive of securing permanent peace between nations.

Warriors and despots are generally bad economists and they instinctively carry their ideas of force and violence into the civil politics of their governments. Free trade is a principle which recognizes the paramount importance of individual action.

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 gives us a legitimate pretension to have a larger navy than France. Besides, this country is an island; we cannot communicate with any part of the world except 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 ourselves, 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 had. 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 proportion. 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 100 million 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 design upon this country.

Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.

I believe that the harm which Mill has done to the world by the passage in his book on Political Economy in which he favors the principle of Protection in young communities, has outweighed all the good which may have been caused by his other writings.

Protection... takes from one man's pocket, and allows him to compensate himself by taking an equivalent from another man's pocket, and if that goes on in a circle through the whole community, it is only a clumsy process of robbing all to enrich none, and simply has this effect, that it ties up the hands of industry in all directions.

I cannot believe that the gentry of England will be made mere drumheads to be sounded upon by a Prime Minister to give forth unmeaning and empty sounds, and to have no articulate voice of their own. No! You are the gentry of England who represent the counties. You are the aristocracy of England. Your fathers led our fathers: you may lead us if you will go the right way. But, although you have retained your influence with this country longer than any other aristocracy, it has not been by opposing popular opinion, or by setting yourselves against the spirit of the age. In other days, when the battle and the hunting-fields were the tests of manly vigour, why, your fathers were first and foremost there. The aristocracy of England were not like the noblesse of France, the mere minions of a court; nor were they like the hidalgoes of Madrid, who dwindled into pigmies. You have been Englishmen. You have not shown a want of courage and firmness when any call has been made upon you. This is a new era. It is the age of improvement, it is the age of social advancement, not the age for war or for feudal sports. You live in a mercantile age, when the whole wealth of the world is poured into your lap. You cannot have the advantages of commercial rents and feudal privileges; but you may be what you always have been, if you will identify yourselves with the spirit of the age. The English people look to the gentry and aristocracy of their country as their leaders. I, who am not one of you, have no hesitation in telling you, that there is a deep-rooted, an hereditary prejudice, if I may so call it, in your favour in this country. But you never got it, and you will not keep it, by obstructing the spirit of the age.

Sometimes slavery is founded upon the inferiority of one race to another; and then it appears in its most agreeable garb, for the system may be necessary to tame and civilize a race of savages.

I have been accused of looking too much to material interests...I believe that the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from the success of this principle. I look farther; I see in the Free-Trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe, drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace...I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails. I believe that the desire and the motive for large and mighty empires; for gigantic armies and great navies...will die away; I believe that such things will cease to be necessary, or to be used when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of one's labor with his brother man. I believe that...the speculative philosopher of a thousand years hence will date the greatest revolution that ever happened in the world's history from the triumph of the principle which we have met here to advocate.

The Blockade Laws are about as rascally an invention as the old Corn Laws. Suppose Tom Sayers lived in a street, and on the opposite side lived a shopkeeper with whom he has been in the habit of dealing. Tom quarrels with his shopkeeper and forthwith sends him a challenge to fight, which is accepted. Tom, being a powerful man, sends word to each and every householder in the street that he is going to fight the shopkeeper, and that until he has finished fighting no person in the street must have any dealings with the shopkeeper. "We have nothing to do with your quarrel," say the inhabitants, "and you have no right to stop our dealings with the shopkeeper".

I have never taken a limited view of the object or scope of this great principle. I have never advocated this question very much as a trader. But I have been accused of looking too much to material interests. Nevertheless I can say that I have taken as large and great a view of the effects of this mighty principle as ever did any man who dreamt over it in his own study. I believe that the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from the success of this principle. I look farther; I see in the Free-trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe,?drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race, and creed, and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. I have looked even farther. I have speculated, and probably dreamt, in the dim future?ay, a thousand years hence?I have speculated on what the effect of the triumph of this principle may be. I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails. I believe that the desire and the motive for large and mighty empires; for gigantic armies and great navies?for those materials which are used for the destruction of life and the desolation of the rewards of labor?will die away; I believe that such things will cease to be necessary, or to be used, when man becomes one family, and freely exchanges the fruits of his labor with his brother man. I believe that, if we could be allowed to reappear on this sublunary scene, we should see, at a far distant period, the governing system of this world revert to something like the municipal system; and I believe that the speculative philosopher of a thousand years hence will date the greatest revolution that ever happened in the world?s history from the triumph of the principle which we have met here to advocate.

Author Picture
First Name
Richard
Last Name
Cobden
Birth Date
1804
Death Date
1865
Bio

English Statesman, Economist and Manufacturer