COB'DEN, RICHARD (1804-65). An English statesman and economist known as the Apostle of Free Trade. He was horn in the hamlet of Heyshott. near Midhurst, in Sussex, on June 3, 1804, of a family which for centuries had been settled in the place. llis father was a sweet natured, incapable man, who proved unequal to the task of supporting his family. In 1814 the farm was sold and young Cobden was sent oil to be educated at a Yorkshire school, where he learned nothing and suffered much for five un happy years. In 1819 he entered his uncle's warehouse in Old Change, London, and devoted himself with great energy to his new business, finding time, nevertheless, at nights, for study and reading. At twenty-one he was a commer cial traveler for his uncle's house, and loved the business for the opportunities it gave him of studying men and things. In 1828 he set up as the commission agent of a large manufacturing house in Manchester on a capital consisting mainly of energy, ability, and his good name. In 1831 he and his partners had prospered :!;uf ficiently to start in business for themselves as calico-printers at Sabden, near Clitheroe, and in the following year brandies were established in London and Manchester. The 'Cobden prints,' tasteful and original in design, became famous. and the partners were speedily on the way to the accumulation of a large fortune. In 1832 Cobden settled in Manchester, and from that time his private affairs became secondary to the interest which he displayed in the broad practical principles of economics and public edu cation. From 1832 to 1835 he must have been busy educating himself, for this was the only time during his early life when he could have found the leisure to acquire the profound knowl edge of political history and economics for which he was distinguished. Reading and for eign travel continued to the last to be a great passion of his life.
In 1835 Cobden published a pamphlet entitled England, Ireland, and America, by a Manchester Manufacturer,' and this was followed in 1836 by another pamphlet on Russia. These two pam
phlets were epoch-making. in that they boldly challenged the prevalent ideas of foreign policy and foreign trade in England. It would seem that the sober-minded Cobden, an enthusiast in his way, had become convinced that commerce was the great torch-hearer of civilization and the great foundation of national prosperity. Anything, therefore, which interfered with the free exchange of commodities between nation and nation was harmful. and for this reason protec tion, which dammed the current of trade, and war, which sought entirely to destroy it, were pernicious. He attacked the historical English policy of intervention in European affairs, on the ground that it bred interminable wars in Europe, while it crushed the English taxpayer with the burden of an enormous debt. The bal ance of power, the political ideal for which so many sanguinary contests had been fought, Cob den ridiculed as an impossible adjustment which, in spite of canturies of bloodshed and diplomacy, still left statesmen facing an obstinate. un stable equilibrium. He strongly deprecated, too, the prevailing spirit of hatred for Russia, the great bugbear of English statesmen. Summed up, his plea was for the principles of peace, non intervention, and a policy of retrenchment and free trade as a means of husbanding the national resources for the great economic struggle that was fast approaching with the entrance of the United States into the markets of the world, In 1835 lie made a brief tour in the United States and Canada. In the winter and spring of 1836 3i Cobden traveled in Spain. Turkey, and Egypt. On his return he entered into Manchester munic ipal politics, being one of those who secured the incorporation of that city in 1838. Popular edu cation was a subject of great interest to him, and he discussed it in many public speeches. In 1837 he was a candidate for Parliament at Stock port, but was defeated.