Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/157

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Cobden
Cobden
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guished from those organic questions which, as Cobden urged, had no vitality in the country. These views he pressed upon the falling minister in a long and interesting letter (23 June 1846). Peel replied on the following day, urging that it would be impossible for him to dissolve after a defeat on an Irish Coercion Bill, without seeming to appeal to England against Ireland, which he should deeply lament, and without incurring the suspicion that he was using the power of dissolution, and the popular influence which his conversion to free trade had given him, merely for the sake of personal objects. When Lord John Russell formed his government, he wrote Cobden a very civil letter (2 July), not proposing office at the moment, as he understood that Cobden was going abroad, and that perhaps he did not intend to follow politics as a pursuit apart from free trade. He expressed a hope, however, that on his return Cobden would join the cabinet.

It would, in fact, have been difficult for Cobden to enter an administration at this moment, even if he had been inclined. The absorbing nature of his public labours had been disastrous to his private fortunes. In 1840 he had married Miss Catherine Anne Williams, a young Welsh lady, and he was now the father of a family. His business imperatively needed energy and attention, and his brother Frederick proved unequal to the task which devolved upon him. In the summer of 1845 embarrassments had become serious, and at the moment when his unselfish devotion to the national interest received its triumphant reward, Cobden himself was a ruined man. A subscription was raised, and nearly 80,000l. was collected in commemoration of his services to a great cause. Of this sum a considerable portion went to the discharge of debt, some was expended in the purchase of a little property at Dunford, where he was born, and where henceforth he livedĀ ; and the balance was invested in the shares of the Illinois Central Railway. The prudence of the investment was in one sense justified by the subsequent prosperity of the line, but for the time both the railway shares and some speculative dealings in land in Manchester proved unfortunate and troublesome. In 1860, after he had been able to render another immense service to the commercial interests of England and France, a second subscription was privately raised to the amount of 40,000l.

The enormous labours of seven years had told not only upon Cobden's fortune, but on his health. He sought relief in his favourite refreshment of foreign travel, and spent fourteen months (5 Aug. 1846-11 Oct. 1847) in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Russia, eagerly striving wherever he went to win converts to his great gospel of free trade. He was everywhere received with marks of honour. He was entertained at public banquets, attended l&tige gatherings, and had long private interviews with leading statesmen. At the general election of 1847 he was chosen both for his former borough of Stockport and for the great constituency of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He elected to sit for the West Riding, which he represented for ten years. For the five or six years following his return to England public affairs were comparatively tranquil. He carried on a wide and active correspondence with reformers of all kinds, about temperance, about education, about parliamentary reform, about the land, and, above all, about peace. In 1849 (12 June) he brought forward the first motion in favour of international arbitration, and in 1851 a motion for the general reduction of armaments. He supported the measure for removing Jewish disabilities, and he denounced the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill (1851) as an intolerant and insulting measure. The accession of Lord Derby's government (February 1852) kindled lively apprehensions of a return to a protective policy, the league reassembled, fresh funds were subscribed, and a plan arranged for the electoral campaign. It proved to be a false alarm, for Mr. Disraeli announced that the government had greater subjects to consider than the triumph of obsolete opinions, and free trade was safe. The following year (1853) Cobden once more came forward as an author. His pamphlet, ' 1792 and 1853, in Three Letters,' was a protest against the panic fear of invasion which had disturbed the public mind after the rise of the Second Empire in France. He attended, for the fourth time, the peace conference, which was held on this occasion at ManchesterĀ ; and in parliament he again pressed the necessity of reducing expenditure. Friends warned him that he was flogging a dead horse, and destroying without compensation the influence and popularity that he had acquired by his labours in the cause of cheap food. He replied that this only showed that there never was a time yet when it was so necessary for a peace party to redouble its efforts. In the same year he wrote his pamphlet on the second Burmese war, entitled ' How Wars are got up in India.' The narrative, extracted and pieced together from the papers laid before parliament, is left to point its own moral, and is a good specimen of Cobden's diligent and weighty method.

Whatever hopes he may have had in the