Nineteenth century British politician, leading proponent of free trade
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  • Richard Cobden

    Richard Cobden (3 June 1804 – 2 April 1865) was an English manufacturer and Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with two major free trade campaigns, the Anti-Corn Law League and the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty.


    Cobden, Richard (1804-1865), by John M. Brady, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "Richard Cobden is best remembered for his partnership with John Bright in heading the movement in Britain to repeal the tariff on imported grain, known as the Corn Laws. Cobden also was a dedicated advocate of international peace and an uncompromising opponent of war. ... Cobden also was committed to constitutional reform; to the disestablishment of state churches; and to a series of social reforms, including the repeal of the primogeniture laws, entails in land, the game laws; and, most important, the abolition of slavery. He was a firm exponent of fiscal retrenchment and tax reform."
    Related Topics: Free Trade, War


    3 Jun 1804, in Dunford, Sussex, England


    2 Apr 1865, in Suffolk Street, London

    Web Pages

    Richard Cobden -
    Links to essays, columns and other resources about Cobden
    Richard Cobden - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes picture, short biography, links to several of Cobden's writings and speeches and to related quotations
    "Richard Cobden (1804-1865) was a member of the British Parliament and an advocate of free trade, a non-interventionist foreign policy, peace, and parliamentary reform. He is best remembered for his activity on behalf of the Anti-Corn Law League which helped reduce British tariffs in 1846 and for negotiating the Anglo-French trade agreement of 1860."


    Bright, John (1811-1859), by Aaron Steelman, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical essay
    "... during his life, Bright was best known as an orator, fiery and radical in speech, whereas Cobden, his associate ..., was considered more pragmatic and measured. ... In 1839, he joined with Cobden, already a well-established statesman, to found the Anti-Corn Law League, tirelessly arguing across the British Isles for free trade. In their near-constant tours on behalf of the cause of liberalized trade, Cobden would speak first, giving the reasoned case for reform, with Bright to follow with a more polemical appeal. ... Cobden died in 1865, with Bright at his side."
    Related Topics: John Bright, Free Trade
    Frederic Bastiat, Ingenious Champion for Liberty and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1997
    Lengthy biographical essay, covering those who influenced Bastiat as well as those influenced by him, his writings (including correspondence with his friend Félix Coudroy), his roles in the French Constituent and Legistative Assemblies and his legacy
    "While going through some London newspapers, Bastiat was thrilled to read about how textile entrepreneurs Richard Cobden and John Bright led the Anti-Corn-Law League, a crusade for free trade. Bastiat began gathering material for a book on the Anti-Corn-Law League, and he started corresponding with Cobden. The Englishman was then about 40, and according to a friend, he could often be seen 'half skipping along a pavement, or a railway platform, with the lightness of a slim and dapper figure, and a mind full bent upon its object.' In July, Bastiat crossed the English Channel to see Cobden."
    Jane Cobden: Carrying on Her Father's Work, by Sheldon Richman, 25 Jul 2014
    Biographical essay on Jane Cobden, daughter of Richard Cobden, who continued her father's advocacy of free trade and other libertarian issues
    "... Cobden did not see free trade in a vacuum. He and Bright linked that cause with their campaign against war and empire, arguing that trade among the people of the world was not just beneficial economically but also conducive to world peace. Unlike other liberals of his time (and since), Cobden understood that free trade means trade free of government even when it pursues allegedly pro-trade policies."
    Related Topic: Libertarianism
    Non-Marxist Theories of Imperialism, by Alan Fairgate, Reason, Feb 1976
    Examines writings of critics of imperialism that are not based on Marxist analysis
    "The first pamphlets written by Cobden, 'England, Ireland and America' and 'Russia,' advanced a theme which he and Bright reiterated often in later years: war and intervention abroad are parasitic and destructive activities which sap the strength of the domestic economy and ruin trade. ... Cobden had perceived that England's aristocratic class was the major antagonist of free trade and, similarly, that the landed aristocracy was the strongest supporter of an interventionist foreign policy: 'Wars have ever been but another aristocratic mode of plundering and oppressing commerce'"
    Richard Cobden: Activist for Peace, by Gary M. Galles, 19 Feb 2003
    Examines Cobden's arguments for trade liberalization, with extensive set of quotations
    "On June 3, 1804, Richard Cobden was born. Nicknamed the 'Apostle of Free Trade,' he spearheaded the campaign against the protectionist English Corn Laws, leading to their repeal in 1846, which then spread to the liberalization of trade throughout much of Europe. His role was so great that it has been said the free market owes its existence to him."
    Related Topic: Free Trade
    Richard Cobden: Creator of The Free Market: Cobden broke down protectionist trade laws in England, by John Chodes, The Freeman, Mar 1993
    Examines the Corn Laws, Cobden's success as a merchant and his activism in favor of free trade
    "In the midst of all this lived a successful young Manchester textile manufacturer named Richard Cobden. He saw the social injustice, and it made him furious. He was determined to change it, and he did. ... seven years later, England had undergone a revolutionary economic, political, and social change. Taxes on grain had been decimated. Unequaled prosperity flooded England."
    Related Topic: Farming
    Richard Cobden's Triumphant Crusade for Free Trade and Peace, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jun 1995
    Extensive biographical essay, including Cobden's relationship with John Bright as they campaigned for repeal of the Corn Laws, and his later peace activism
    "The nineteenth century was the most peaceful period in modern history. ... In all this, one name towers above the rest: Richard Cobden, the straight-talking English textile entrepreneur who gave up his business to crusade during three crucial decades. He pursued the most successful political strategies for free trade. He articulated the moral case which proved decisive. His inspired speeches attracted thousands of people at a time and raised plenty of money. He traveled throughout Europe, the United States, North Africa, and the Near East, spreading the gospel of free trade to kings and commoners alike."
    To Defeat the Assault on Liberty, Our Appeals Must Be Moral, by Jim Powell, 13 May 2013
    Argues, by providing several historical examples, that "compelling moral appeals for liberty" are needed to confront various current problems such as government spending and debt, higher taxes and disregard of constitutional limits on executive power
    "The case for free trade had been made mainly with economic arguments about how consumers benefited when they're free to buy from anyone they choose, including foreign suppliers often kept out of markets by trade restrictions. Then came the British textile manufacturer Richard Cobden who, in 1838, envisioned a movement for free trade. 'It appears to me,' Cobden wrote an Edinburgh publisher, 'that a moral and even a religious spirit may be infused into that topic [free trade], and if agitated in the same manner that the question of slavery has been, it will be irresistible.'"


    The League and Sir Robert Peel, 15 Jan 1846
    Speech to the National Anti-Corn-Law League, discussing their work over the past seven years and predicting immediate repeal of the Corn Laws in the upcoming session of Parliament
    "I look farther; I see in the Free Trade principle that which shall act on the moral world as the principle of gravitation in the universe, - drawing men together, thrusting aside the antagonism of race and creed and language, and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. ... I have speculated on what the effect of the triumph of this principle may be. I believe that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so as to introduce a system of government entirely distinct from that which now prevails."
    Related Topics: Free Market, Free Trade


    Richard Cobden: Independent Radical
        by Nicholas C. Edsall, 1986
    Contents: Part I: Manchester Manufacturer, 1832-1838 - Part II: Agitator, 1838-1846 - Part III: Schoolmaster, 1846-1856 - Part IV: Diplomatist, 1856-1865 - Bibliography, Notes and Index

    Books Authored

    Speeches on Questions of Public Policy by Richard Cobden. M. P. - in Two Volumes, by John Bright (editor), Richard Cobden, 14 Apr 1870
    Electronic text available at Online Library of Liberty; contents: Volume I: Free Trade and Finance - Volume II: War, Peace, and Reform; also edited by James E. Thorold Rogers
    The Political Writings of Richard Cobden, Volume I, 1835
    Electronic text available at Online Library of Liberty; contents: England, Ireland, and America. 1835 - Russia. 1836 - 1793 and 1853, in three letters


    Classics of Liberty, Ep. 5: Richard Cobden: On Free Trade, by Caleb Brown, 12 Sep 2015
    Short biographical introduction to Cobden followed by selections from his writings on free trade
    Related Topic: Free Trade

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Richard Cobden" as of 12 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.