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COBET

in the House of Commons on the alleged necessity of constructing large defensive works in Canada. He was deeply impressed with the folly of such a project, and he was seized with a strong desire to go up to London and deliver his sentiments on the subject. He left home on the 21st of March, and caught a chill. He recovered a little for a few days after his arrival in London; but on the 29th there was a relapse, and on the 2nd of April 1865 he expired peacefully at his apartments in Suffolk Street.

On the following day there was a remarkable scene in the House of Commons. When the clerk read the orders of the day Lord Palmerston rose, and in impressive and solemn tones declared “it was not possible for the House to proceed to business without every member recalling to his mind the great loss which the House and country had sustained by the event which took place yesterday morning.” He then paid a generous tribute to the virtues, the abilities and services of Cobden, and he was followed by Disraeli, who with great force and felicity of language delineated the character of the deceased statesman, who, he said, “was an ornament to the House of Commons and an honour to England.” Bright also attempted to address the House, but, after a sentence or two delivered in a tremulous voice, he was overpowered with emotion, and declared he must leave to a calmer moment what he had to say on the life and character of the manliest and gentlest spirit that ever quitted or tenanted a human form.

In the French Corps Législatif, also, the vice-president, Forçade la Roquette, referred to his death, and warm expressions of esteem were repeated and applauded on every side. “The death of Richard Cobden,” said M. la Roquette, “is not alone a misfortune for England, but a cause of mourning for France and humanity.” Drouyn de Lhuys, the French minister of foreign affairs, made his death the subject of a special despatch, desiring the French ambassador to express to the government “the mournful sympathy and truly national regret which the death, as lamented as premature, of Richard Cobden had excited on that side of the Channel.” “He is above all,” he added, “in our eyes the representative of those sentiments and those cosmopolitan principles before which national frontiers and rivalries disappear; whilst essentially of his country, he was still more of his time; he knew what mutual relations could accomplish in our day for the prosperity of peoples. Cobden, if I may be permitted to say so, was an international man.”

He was buried at West Lavington church, on the 7th of April. His grave was surrounded by a large crowd of mourners, among whom were Gladstone, Bright, Milner Gibson, Charles Villiers and a host besides from all parts of the country. In 1866 the Cobden Club was founded in London, to promote free-trade economics, and it became a centre for political propaganda on those lines; and prizes were instituted in his name at Oxford and Cambridge.

Cobden had married in 1840 Miss Catherine Anne Williams, a Welsh lady, and left five surviving daughters, of whom Mrs Cobden-Unwin (wife of the publisher Mr Fisher Unwin), Mrs Walter Sickert (wife of the painter) and Mrs Cobden-Sanderson (wife of the well-known artist in bookbinding), afterwards became prominent in various spheres, and inherited their father’s political interest. His only son died, to Cobden’s inexpressible grief, at the age of fifteen, in 1856.

The work of Cobden, and what is now called “Cobdenism,” has in recent years been subjected to much criticism from the newer school of English economists who advocate a “national policy” (on the old lines of Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List) as against his cosmopolitan ideals. But it remains the fact that his success with the free-trade movement was for years unchallenged, and, that the leaps and bounds with which English commercial prosperity advanced after the repeal of the corn-laws were naturally associated with the reformed fiscal policy, so that the very name of protectionism came to be identified with all that was not merely heterodox but hateful. The tariff reform movement in England started by Mr Chamberlain (q.v.) had the result of giving new boldness to the opponents of Manchesterism, and the whole subject once more became controversial (see Free Trade; Corn Laws; Protection; Tariff; Economics). Cobden has left a deep mark on English history, but he was not himself a “scientific economist,” and many of his confident prophecies were completely falsified. As a manufacturer, and with the circumstances of his own day before him, he considered that it was “natural” for Great Britain to manufacture for the world in exchange for her free admission of the more “natural” agricultural products of other countries. He advocated the repeal of the corn-laws, not essentially in order to make food cheaper, but because it would develop industry and enable the manufacturers to get labour at low but sufficient wages; and he assumed that other countries would be unable to compete with England in manufactures under free trade, at the prices which would be possible for English manufactured products. “We advocate,” he said, “nothing but what is agreeable to the highest behests of Christianity—to buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest.” He believed that the rest of the world must follow England’s example: “if you abolish the corn-laws honestly, and adopt free trade in its simplicity, there will not be a tariff in Europe that will not be changed in less than five years” (January 1846). His cosmopolitanism—which makes him in the modern Imperialist’s eyes a “Little Englander” of the straitest sect—led him to deplore any survival of the colonial system and to hail the removal of ties which bound the mother country to remote dependencies; but it was, in its day, a generous and sincere reaction against popular sentiment, and Cobden was at all events an outspoken advocate of an irresistible British navy. There were enough inconsistencies in his creed to enable both sides in the recent controversies to claim him as one who if he were still alive would have supported their case in the altered circumstances; but, from the biographical point of view, these issues are hardly relevant. Cobden inevitably stands for “Cobdenism,” which is a creed largely developed by the modern free-trader in the course of subsequent years. It becomes equivalent to economic laisser-faire and “Manchesterism,” and as such it must fight its own corner with those who now take into consideration many national factors which had no place in the early utilitarian individualistic régime of Cobden’s own day.

The standard biography is that by John Morley (1881). Cobden’s speeches were collected and published in 1870. The centenary of his birth in 1904 was celebrated by a flood of articles in the newspapers and magazines, naturally coloured by the new controversy in England over the Tariff Reform movement.


COBET, CAREL GABRIEL (1813–1889), Dutch classical scholar, was born at Paris on the 28th of November 1813, and educated at the Hague Gymnasium and the university of Leiden. In 1836 he won a gold medal for an essay entitled Prosopographia Xenophontea, a brilliant characterization of all the persons introduced into the Memorabilia, Symposium and Oeconomicus of Xenophon. His Observationes criticae in Platonis comici reliquias (1840) revealed his remarkable critical faculty. The university conferred on him an honorary degree, and recommended him to the government for a travelling pension. The ostensible purpose of his journey was to collate the texts of Simplicius, which, however, engaged but little of his time. He contrived, however, to make a careful study of almost every Greek manuscript in the Italian libraries, and returned after five years with an intimate knowledge of palaeography. In 1846 he married, and in the same year was appointed to an extraordinary professorship at Leiden. His inaugural address, De Arte interpretandi Grammatices et Critices Fundamentis innixa, has been called the most perfect piece of Latin prose written in the 19th century. The rest of his life was passed uneventfully at Leiden. In 1856 he became joint editor of Mnemosyne, a philological review, which he soon raised to a leading position among classical journals. He contributed to it many critical notes and emendations, which were afterwards collected in book form under the titles Novae Lectiones, Variae Lectiones and Miscellanea Critica. In 1875 he took a prominent part at the Leiden Tercentenary, and impressed all his hearers by his wonderful facility in Latin improvisation. In 1884, when his health was failing, he retired as emeritus professor. He died on the 26th of October 1889. Cobet’s special weapon as a critic