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nal idea or design and the object to be gained or the goal to be reached. In this period Cobden acted as if events were going to fall out as he predetermined they should fall out. He aimed at giving effect to his shadowy schemes through the instrument of international enthusiasm. He succeeded—we know well how he succeeded—in convincing part of his own countrymen, certainly not the most unprejudiced part, of the reality, and not only the reality but the absolute necessity, of those schemes. But the cloak which was held before the eyes of a large part of his countrymen was torn through by the statesmen on the Continent and in America. We now know that Cobden reckoned solely upon imaginary conditions. But it reflects upon the marvellous enthusiasm of the man himself, when he tried to show other nations what they would gain by a universal free trade, in opposition to the judgment of their leaders, which was to continue in the old groove.1
1 The system of reciprocity. International bargains ought to be (and they are in most instances) founded on a basis of equality. You can obtain a greater or less degree of equality under protection. Universal free trade is certain to favour the richer and older communities. Respecting the French treaty, we lay before the reader a passage from Professor Thorold Rogers's 'Cobden and Political Opinion,'p. 339. "He neither understood the bearing, nor saw the importance, of Cobden's treaty. Mr Lowe imagined that the essence of Cobden's treaty was reciprocity, and he explained reciprocity as the antithesis to free trade. Now the treaty of 1860 was not a reciprocity treaty, for France did not accept free trade in the same measure as England had accepted it. But, if it had been a reciprocity treaty, it need not have been hostile to free trade, for it is quite possible for two nations to enter into such a reciprocal obligation as involves the mutual acceptance of free-trade doctrines. Cobden's treaty was an arrangement by which a true reciprocity of free trade was made, a question of time." In the meanwhile, which nation suffers the most from unequal conditions ? we inquire.
They were safe in that. "Where they would get, did they step out of it, they could not tell.
But if Cobden was but slightly acquainted with the science of which he was the chief expounder in his day, and which he denned more by the force of his character than by the rectitude of his arguments, he was still less acquainted with the elements of a far higher science than the science of political economy,—the knowledge of his fellow-creatures. He endeavoured to create a distrust between peoples and their rulers. He ought to have been assured that those peoples, or the bulk of them, would naturally be more influenced by the judgment of their own rulers than by the opinions of a man, however meritorious his views, however noble his sacrifice, who was nothing more or less than the self-constituted guide of the destiny of nations.
He ought to have known, at the very outset of his mission, that he could never hope to break the faith of other peoples in their governors, even if he succeeded in shaking that faith at home. What he ought to have done at first, he performed at last. He secured a treaty with France, after he had failed in persuading the United States of the inestimable value of free trade. But upon what basis? The basis of reciprocity. It was the exact framework upon which the second Pitt constructed his commercial treaty with France in 1785. It was the reflection of William Huskisson's conduct towards foreign nations. But it is magnified by the free-traders into one of the natural developments of free trade, when, in its simplest dress, it is but the development of free trade under the principle of protection.
We think that one important conclusion may be drawn from a general study of Cobden's work as bearing upon the progress of his intellect, and the alterations that intellect underwent with reference to his views of the world's affairs. That conclusion is, that Cobden's sense of the utility of enthusiasm became materially impaired. He went to work in a different fashion.1 His primary method had borne no good fruit. Instead, now, of appealing to the people, he strove to influence their rulers in a system which should be of advantage to them. But those rulers are in the most favourable position to know what is best for the welfare of the nation whose care is committed to their charge. And it was difficult for Cobden to identify himself with that position. As matter of fact, he never really succeeded in doing so. But there can scarce be a doubt that that is the first step in conferring prosperity upon a nation. International arrangements must be mutual in the first instance, like the French treaty of 1860.
To act arbitrarily, as we did in 1846, is, then, to
1 At first Cobden, supported by the gold of the manufacturers, obtained the adhesion of the labouring classes of Lancashire and Yorkshire. These were his strongholds. Then he appealed to the rest of the labouring community, and dangled the cheap loaf before them. But not making rapid progress, he began to use threats. The fortyshilling franchise was the lever with which he menaced the landlords. After the Chartists were gained, and the agricultural labourers deluded, Cobden was ready for a dissolution. He trusted the "intelligence " of the country. He stated the question could only be decided by a new Parliament. But the Conservative phalanx offered a very resolute resistance. It was then Cobden told Sir Robert Peel that even a dissolution, if adverse, would not influence his views upon the rectitude of his principles. What becomes of the national intelligence? make nations more inimical than they were before.1 Before we took that course, it was incumbent on our rulers and demagogues to ascertain the disposition of those nations which our arbitrary act would injure. But you will reply, there were pressing needs at home for the repeal of the Cora Laws. There was even danger of revolution.2 But whence sprang the danger? Was it from our rulers—or demagogues, our would-be rulers? The danger was clearly made by the leaders of a deluded people. They had but to acknowledge they were pursuing either a selfish or a cosmopolitan course of policy. At any rate, the public ought to have known all the possible results of a twofold tendency. What happened? These leaders saw, as they thought, far; but they did not foresee. They abandoned the control of their country's trade. They exposed weak points. They left them unguarded, a prey to the violence of their neighbours' attacks.
1 Our free-trade policy raised considerable alarm in France.
2 From the quarter of Chartism. It is probable that the leaders of the Chartist movement were satisfied with the promises of the freetraders. Commercial innovation first; build up a free-trade party and with it carry political reforms.