The history of Cobden's connection with the anti-Corn Law agitation began in October, 1838, when an anti-Corn Law association was founded in Manchester. (See CORN LAWS.) Cobden was one of its earliest members and soon became its guiding spirit. He converted the Manchester Chamber of Commerce to his views and made it a powerful instrument of agitation. Anti-Corn associations were founded in many towns of the north, and in London, in :March, 1839, the delegates of the various associations united to form the Anti-Corn Law League (q.v.), of which Cobden and six others constituted the council. From the first he was the soul of the movement, and to the people at large he seemed to be the embodiment of the cause. With magnificent tal ents for organization, with an unequaled gift for popular oratory, and above all, with his kindling enthusiasm and tremendous capacity for work, he was what would be called in modern parlance campaign manager, press bureau, and stump speaker all in one. The history of the anti-Corn Law agitation belongs properly elsewhere, hut Cobden's activity is so identified with the work of the League that the two can hardly be sepa rated. Wonderful instances are quoted of the sudden conversion of hostile audiences in coun try and town, as they listened to Cobden's sim ple, sincere. and irrefutable arguments; and his success in his `campaign of education' was all the more rapid in that his teachings confined themselves to driving home the elemental truth that food is a desirable thing for people who starve. In 1341 he entered Parliament from Stockport. His reception in the House was not friendly; but his evident sincerity and his straightforward. unanswerable arguments always gained him a hearing. At the beginning of the session, Air. Charles Villier's annual motion to consider the repeal of the Corn Laws was reject ed by a vote of 393 to 90, yet within five years after he had entered Parliament, Cobden had con verted Sir Robert Peel and his party to free trade. In 1843 considerable odium was heaped upon his name as the result of an attack on the Government, which Peel unjustly took to be an exhortation to personal violence against him self. Cobden, however, was undaunted, and continued to plead, in Parliament and out, against the "system of legislative murder" which "starved people to death." On March 13. 1845, he delivered an especially powerful speech in the House, at the end of which Peel is said to have muttered, "Those may answer him who ran, I cannot do it." The famine in Ireland came to the aid of the Anti-Corn Law League. On December 5, 1845, the Prime Minister pronounced for the total repeal of the Corn Laws and in 1846 the battle had been won. Speaking in Parliament in that year, Peel declared that to Cobden was due the honor for the great re form which had just been enacted. That the intense ea ri lest necs which animated Cobden throughout the struggle was something more than enthusiasm for a principle in economics is shown in the following words of .lulu Bright, his life-long friend and supporter, spoken at the unveiling of Cobden's monument at Bradford in 1877. It was in September, 1841, and Bright was mourning over the dead body of his young wife when Cobden came to him saying: "There are thousands of houses in England at this moment where wives, mothers, and children are dying of hunger. Now, when the first paroxysm of your grief has passed, 1 would advise you to come with me, and we will never rest until the Corn Law is repealed." The struggle and the triumph are thus described by Mr. Bright: "We were joined, not by scores, but by hundreds, and afterwards by thousands, and afterwards by countless multitudes; and afterwards, famine itself, against which we had warred. joined in. A great minister was converted, and minorities became majorities, and finally the barrier was entirely thrown down, and since then, though there has been suffering, and much suffering, in many homes in England, no wife, and no mother, and no little child has been starved to death as a result of famine made by law." During the agitation for the repeal of the Corn Laws, Cobden had neglected his own affairs entirely, and at the end he was a poor man. A
popular subscription of more than 175,000 was made up for him and he went abroad for rest. llis nature, however, was opposed to rest, and during his long travels iu France. Spain, ttaly, Germany, and Russia, he did not cease to ad vocate in public speeches and interviews with sovereigns and statesmen the great principles of free trade, peace, and non-intervention. During his absence he was elected to Parliament from the West Riding of Yorkshire (1847), and on his return to England he affiliated himself with numerous peace societies and subsequently at tended a number of international peace con gresses in Paris, Frankfort, and London. In 1349 he moved in Parliament that action be taken toward the establishment of international arbitration, and in 1851 he proposed a general reduction of armaments. He was active in com bating the periodic outbursts of anti-Gallic and anti-Russian fever such as that which spread Gler the country in 1853, and lost thereby that immense popularity which he had acquired in the struggle against the Corn Laws. He bitterly assailed Palmerston's policy of active interven tion in European affairs, and with John Bright opposed the war against Russia in 1854, for which he was virulently assailed by the unani mous voice of a war-mad nation. Far from con sidering, the preservation of Turkey as desirable. Cobden maintained that the downfall of the Ot toman Empire in Europe would redound to the welfare of the Christian peoples of the Balkans and to the cause of civilization. In 1857, as the result of an attack by Cobden on the Chinese policy of the Cabinet. the Palmerston 'Ministry was outvoted and forced to appeal to the country. Cobden stood for Huddersfield. hut his unpopu larity on account of his attitude toward the war recently ended was still great and he was defeated. In 1859 he came to the United States, this being his second visit after a lapse of twenty-four years. On his return the post of President of the Board of Trade was offered him by Palmerston, with a place in the Cabinet. Against the urgent advice of his friends. Cobden declined the offer, refusing frankly to take sides with a man from whom he differed toto cal° on matters of foreign policy. At the suggestion of 1\1. Chevalier, the eminent champion of free trade, Cobden went to France in 1859 to attempt the negotiation of a commercial treaty between that country and England. He possessed the support of none of the English ministers save Gladstone, but his reputation was such that in his unofficial capacity he succeeded in converting the French Emperor and his ministers to his views. In January, 1860, Cobden was clothed with official authority and in the same month the treaty was concluded. He remained in Paris until November, accomplishing the tremendous labor necessary in the minute adjustment of a new tariff schedule. On returning to England, he declined the offer of a baronetcy and resumed his activity in Parliament. With John Bright he earnestly supported the cause of the North in the Civil War, and in Parliament severely criticised the course of the Government in permitting the equipment of Confederate cruis ers for the purpose of preying on American commeree. His last speech in Parliament was delivered in July, 1864. He contracted serious bronchial trouble as the result of exposure in traveling on a public mission to London. and died there July 2, 1865. His death was ac knowledged as a national loss by men of such widely differing opinions as Palmerston, Disraeli, and John Bright, and was received with sorrow iu Franee and other countries of the Continent.
Cobden's Speeches on Questions of Public Policy were published by his friends John Bright and Tho•old Rogers in 1870. The best biography is that by .John Morley, Richard Cobden's Life (London, IS81). Consult also Gamier, Richard Cobden, res liqueurs et la ligue (Paris, 1846) ; Bastiat, Cobden, et la ligue on l'agitation pour la liberte du commerce (Paris, 1843).