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Chapter XIII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 3


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Mr. Cobden's name is so well and affectionately remembered, not only among the members of the " Cobden Club," which, after his death, was established to embody and carry out his principles, but among English people of all classes and kinds, that we need not spend many words in describing his character. Earnest yet prudent, enthusiastic yet not fanatical, indefatigable yet patient, devoted yet wise - these he certainly was. And under all these qualities he had that which gave them half their force, and which was, in fact, at the root of them, the quality of disinterested simplicity. It was this, in fact, that lent him such a rare personal charm, and that made so many thousands feel a sense of personal loss in his death. He was an English Garibaldi, fighting with different weapons and for a less dazzling end, but scarcely in a less heroic struggle. Indeed, if allowance is made for their wholly different circumstances, different blood, different conditions, different temperaments, there is something very much alike in the Italian and the English soldier of freedom. The one, it is true, stirs a keener emotion and acts with the sword; the other acts by force of logic. But the one gives his life to fighting against narrow, cramping tyrants; and the other gave his to fighting against a narrow, cramping monopoly. More than all, the same great passion impelled both; Cobden was what Garibaldi is, an " international man." What Garibaldi fought for at Naples and Mentana was avowedly Italy, but in reality it was freedom, and that because freedom was to him the indispensable condition of human progress throughout the world. So with Cobden and the Corn Laws, and the Russian War, and the Commercial Treaty; what he fought and argued for there, was something real enough, but it was only a means to an end. That end has since been well described by one of the ablest of Cobden's disciples, and one of the very few men in England at the present day who has both knowledge and ideas on questions of European interest - Mr. Grant Duff. He is speaking of what he calls " the legacy of Mr. Cobden." " By that I meanihat policy which was inaugurated by the repeal of the Corn Laws, the policy of Free Trade or free exchange, in its widest sense - the policy which takes for granted that the country has made up its mind to get rid, in home matters, of all trammels upon industry; and to get rid, in foreign matters, of the old evil ways of national jealousies huge armaments, artificial arrangements for securing the balance of power, and, in short, of the whole course of conduct which was based on the idea that nations should act in the spirit of the old rhyme: -

'As I walked by myself, I said to myself,
And the selfsame self said to me,
"Look out for yourself, take care of yourself,
For nobody cares for thee." '

The policy, in other words, which substitutes international co-operation for international hostility."

We know how far the world is yet from the ideal of Cobden and Garibaldi; we see a practical denial given to their aspirations in such fearful cataclysms as the American War and the War of 1870. But at least it is to be remembered that the wars of the present, if they are as fierce as the wars of old, are yet neither wars of aggression, for the most part, nor wars of dynasties; and that is one step towards the cessation of war altogether. In the next place, it must be remembered that now, for the first time in the world's history, is the international theory finding a voice. A hundred years ago, Adam: Smith published his book which lie called " The Wealth I of Nations;" and he showed in it that the wealth of nations sprang from mutual intercourse, and not, as had been believed till then, from mutual exclusion. Seventy years afterwards, Cobden arose to carry out Adam Smith's idea into a wider field - into a field co-extensive with life itself. He believed, he demonstrated till others believed, that not only the wealth of nations, but their welfare, depends on their co-operation; " that it is a rational and practical proposition, that men may be brought no longer to look upon differences of race, creed, and climate, as a necessary obstacle to political unity." To this point has Adam Smith been brought in less than a century. In a century more, how much further will the idea, so glorious, so hopeful, so hard, have advanced towards its realisation?

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