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shown to be the direct and unopposed action of an unequal free trade, as contrasted with its evanescent and indirectx action, which leads those who allow the accuracy of our facts, and acquiesce in their arrangement, to oppose the continuation of a system of free imports, as destructive to the best interests of the nation.
1 With the introduction of free trade, and cheap bread looming in the future, the manufacturers increased their produce, in order to swamp foreign markets. Was this "increasedproduction" founded on an economical basis? No. This " increased production " we therefore ascribe to the moral influence of the principle of free trade.
There can scarce be a doubt, we think, that the single object of the Manchester school was to make British manufacture supreme. It has failed to do this; and, in the attempt, has succeeded in destroying agriculture.
COBDEN AND BRITISH AGRICULTURE.
"There never can be prosperity in any country while all the numerous cultivators of the soil are permanently depressed and injured." i
"When once there comes that spirit over the minds of men,—a spirit which repudiates party, which seeks not to gain advantage here by the spoliation of somebody there, but a spirit which wishes the truth to be fully discovered and recognised,—the time will be at hand when the cultivators of the soil shall no longer be made the shuttle-cock of political parties." 3
"I am deeply interested in the prosperity of agriculture."
Cobden's One-sided Arguments—His Opinion Of The Progress Of Agriculture, Based Upon What He Believed Would Happen, But His Predictions Not Borne Out By Experience—Attitude To Landed Proprietors Who Stood In His Way—His Data For Determining Future Prices Unsound And Insufficient.
§ 9. Gobden as an advocate; one-sided arguments.— Free trade was openly promulgated by Cobden and his associates to remove the distress arising from a scarcity of corn Such distress resulted from the insufficiency of the home crops ensuing upon bad seasons. But this free trade in corn was not in the slightest degree to exert any prejudicial influence upon the national agriculture. And it is certain that, towards the end of the free-trade agitation, Cobden, in his usual incomplete fashion, proved—he asserted the proof was conclusive —that instead of being depressed by free trade, the farming prospects of the country would be raised to a height never known before.1 It was to place the people outside the influence of a " natural " cause over which there was no human control.
1 Speech delivered in House of Commons, April 11, 1851.
2 P. 444 of Professor Thorold Rogers's edition of Right Hon. John Bright's Speeches. (This sentiment bears strongly upon the position of our Army and Navy at the present day.)
At first the new policy created considerable alarm. And such was the confusion of opinions, that the majority of the original promoters of free trade believed that it would destroy agriculture. It was not until Cobden — the farmer's friend2 — showed how competition would stimulate the production of wheat, that some of the farmers began to be converted, and the manufacturers to be satisfied. This assumed fact, that our agriculture was not to suffer, proved one of the essential props of his complicated policy—complicated in the inevitable alterations which it induced in every branch of internal and external trade. And it was a prop which admitted of fascinating illustrations. To appeal to the eye by telling the labouring multitude that it was in their power to buy a larger loaf for a less price than that which they were in the habit of giving for a small one, may be looked upon as a rhetorical success. But in order to give the illustration stability and effect, it was his duty to
1 P. 114: "We should be an exporting country, if we only grew as much as we may grow."
2 P. 93: " If there has been ono individual who has more consistently stood up for farmers' interests and rights than another, I am the man." tell his audience that the present he was making them would be a solid and permanent one. And further, as he always addressed himself to an intelligent audience, it seems to us that it was almost requisite for him to have detailed the nature of the process which enabled him to confer so lasting a benefit upon the labouring classes. Let us always bear in mind that Cobden's free trade was to remove the source of distress which was caused by occasional scarcity of corn.
But it did not suffice to dilate upon the happy results accruing from a free intercourse in corn. He might have been content with a mere reference to the distressed state of the nation under protection, and have referred to the circumstance that, in spite of periodic attacks of commercial depression, the rate of profits still continued to be high. He might simply have proved to the nation that the state of affairs which he contemplated would be far better than the actual state in which he was then living. In short, that protection might be good, but that free trade was better. But his combative disposition precluded this more sober course. Protection was a bad thing for the country: it was the sole cause of all the evils of the nation. Free trade was the regenerator. And thus, denouncing the system of protection as having no good effects (he said "all protection was bad"x —of course, he did not include "natural" protection)
1 "AH protection was bad"; "protection is destructive to agricul! Z— Pp. 61 and 87.
2 p1 • "I do not ask for a law to enhance the profits of my busi_ . ,',, a '„<! says that the profits of manufacture will be enlarged
of our Army and
—as, in fact, working positive harm to the country; as, further, the protective system was associated in his scheme with the tyranny of the landlords,—we need not be surprised to hear that the association of protection and starvation became a very early means of touching the susceptibilities of what Cobden was fond of calling an intelligent assembly. But Cobden gained his point by the power of persuasion. And it seems the intellect of his followers could not have been greatly exercised. We suppose that Cobden assimilated a new meaning to the term which is capable of so much abuse,—the intelligence of the country,1— and that he strictly applied to all those who were disposed to agree with him. For if you read of Cobden's treatment of his opponents, you will find that he offered them little courtesy, and no respect. He "candidly confessed he felt the most supreme contempt for all they said." What especial reasons there may have been for such conduct, which certainly does not reflect highly upon the beauty of his character, we care not to inquire. We are disposed to infer from these extremes of conduct, the disposition of a passionate, and therefore dangerous, man. The present age will not believe, though Cobden tells us so, that all his followers were intelligent. But we would have believed him had he told us that a particular section of them, and that section which gave him pecuniary support in his political campaign, were pursuing, under the cloak of Cobden's patriotism, a
1 But the "intelligence of the country " is very liable to fluctuate. We have lately had an instance of it in the development of Home Rule by Mr Gladstone.