Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Richard Cobden

English Statesman, Economist and Manufacturer

"Luck relies on chance. Labor on character."

"A newspaper should be the maximum of information, and the minimum of comment."

"At all events, arbitration is more rational, just, and humane than the resort to the sword."

"But it is my happiness to be half Welsh, and that the better half."

"For every credibility gap there is a gullibility gap."

"For the progress of scientific knowledge will lead to a constant increase of expenditure."

"I am no party man in this matter in any degree; and if I have any objection to the motion it is this, that whereas it is a motion to inquire into the manufacturing distress of the country, it should have been a motion to inquire into manufacturing and agricultural distress."

"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."

"I believe it has been said that one copy of the "Times" contains more useful information than the whole of the historical works of Thucydides."

"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 enormous and burdensome standing armaments which it is the practice of modern Governments to sustain in time of peace."

"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?"

"I confess that for fifteen years my efforts in education, and my hopes of success in establishing a system of national education, have always been associated with the idea of coupling the education of this country with the religious communities which exist."

"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."

"I should, therefore, be a hypocrite, if I were to say I have any particular repugnance to a system of education coupled with religious instruction."

"I therefore declare, that if you wish any remission of the taxation which falls upon the homes of the people of England and Wales, you can only find it by reducing the great military establishments, and diminishing the money paid to fighting men in time of peace."

"In Holland, they have come to precisely the same conclusion. There they have adopted a system of secular education, because they have found it impracticable to unite the religious bodies in any system of combined religious instruction."

"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."

"Let it never be forgotten that it is not by means of war that states are rendered fit for the enjoyment of constitutional freedom; on the contrary, whilst terror and bloodshed reign in the land, involving men's minds in the extremities of hopes and fears, there can be no process of thought, no education going on, by which alone can a people be prepared for the enjoyment of rational liberty."

"Luck is always waiting for something to turn up. Labor, with keen eyes and strong will, always turns up something. Luck lies in bed and wishes the postman will bring news of a legacy. Labor turns out at six o'clock and with busy pen or ringing hammer, lays the foundation of a competence. Luck whines. Labor whistles. Luck relies on chance, labor on character."

"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."

"I consider the temperance cause the foundation of all social and political reform."

"The people of the two nations [French and English] must be brought into mutual dependence by the supply of each other's 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 problem to solve is, whether a single or a double government would be most advantageous; 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."

"The progress of freedom depends more upon the maintenance of peace, the spread of commerce, and the diffusion of education, than upon the labors of cabinets and foreign offices."

"This great oracle of the East India Company himself admits that, if there is no power vested in the Court of Directors but that of the patronage, there is really no government vested in them at all."

"Treaties of peace, made after war, are entrusted to individuals to negotiate and carry out."

"Wars have ever been but another aristocratic mode of plundering and oppressing commerce."

"You don't have to be a genius to sound like one. Here's a collection of the most profound and provocative wit and wisdom in the English language in two lines or less. Edited by entrepreneur John M."

"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."

"People who eat potatoes will never be able to perform their abilities in whatever job they choose to have."

"The landlords are not agriculturists; that is an abuse of terms which has been too long tolerated."

"You have no security for a man who has no religious principle."

"Depend upon it; nothing can be got by fraternizing with trades unions. They are founded upon principles of brutal tyranny and monopoly. I would rather live under a Dey of Algiers than a Trades Committee."

"England, by calmly directing her undivided energies to the purifying of her own internal institutions, to the emancipation of her commerce...would, by thus serving as it were for the beacon for other nations, aid more effectually the cause of political progression all over the continent, than she could possibly do by plunging herself into the strife of European wars..."

"Free Trade! What is it? Why, breaking down the barriers that separate nations; those barriers, behind which nestle the feelings of pride, revenge, hatred, and jealousy, which every now and then burst their bounds, and deluge whole countries with blood; those feelings which nourish the poison of war and conquest, which assert that without conquest we can have no trade, which foster that lust for conquest and dominion which sends forth your warrior chiefs to scatter devastation through other lands, and then calls them back that they may be enthroned securely in your passions, but only to harass and oppress you at home."

"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."

"Has he not accurately anticipated both the fact and the motive of the present attitude of the State of New York? Is it not commercial gain and mercantile ascendancy which prompt their warlike zeal for the Federal Government? At all events, it is a little unreasonable in the New York politicians to require us to treat the South as rebels, in the fact of the opinion of our highest European authority as to the right of secession."

"Holding one of the principles of eternal justice to be the inalienable right of every man freely to exchange the result of his labor for the productions of other people, and maintaining the practice of protecting one part of the community at the expense of all other classes to be unsound and unjustifiable, your petitioners earnestly implore...carry out to the fullest extent...the true and peaceful principles of Free Trade, by removing all existing obstacles to the unrestricted employment of industry and capital."

"How can protection, think you, add to the wealth of a country? Can you by legislation add one farthing to the wealth of the country? You may, by legislation, in one evening, destroy the fruits and accumulation of a century of labor; but I defy you to show me how, by the legislation of this House, you can add one farthing to the wealth of the country. That springs from the industry and intelligence; you cannot do better than leave it to its own instincts. If you attempt by legislation to give any direction to trade or industry, it is a thousand to one that you are doing wrong; and if you happen to be right, it is work of supererogation, for the parties for whom you legislate would go right without you, and better than with you."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"I agree with you to the letter in all you say about Ireland. There is no doubt that the land question (coupled with the Church Establishment) is at the root of the evil. And here let me say that I go heartily with you in the determination to attack the land monopoly root and branch both here and in Ireland and Scotland....Wherever the deductions of political economy lead I am prepared to follow. By the way, have you had time to read Bastiat's partly posthumous volume, 'Les Harmonies Economiques'? If not, do so; it will require a studious perusal, but will repay it. He has breathed a soul into the dry bones of political economy, and has vindicated his favourite science from the charge of inhumanity with all the fervour of a religious devotee."

"I yield to no one in sympathy for those who are struggling for freedom in any part of the world; but I will never sanction an interference which shall go to establish this or that nationality by force of arms, because that invades a principal 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."

"If ever there was a hard-headed and not a soft-hearted Sovereign it was she; if ever there 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 well call her. ... When I see the accounts of what passed when the [Dutch] 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 almost 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 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."

"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 succeed, not as a political, revolutionary, Radical, Chartist notion, but taken up on politico-economic grounds, the agitation would be certain to succeed; and if you apply free trade in land and to labor 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 corn."

"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."

"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."

"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 revolutionary measures, have been the great Conservatives of our own age."

"I would not step across the street just now to increase our trade for the mere sake of commercial gain...But to improve moral and political relations of France and England, by bringing them into greater intercourse and greater dependence, I would walk barefoot from Calais to Paris."