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I cannot omit his own answer:
There may be, no doubt, a certain amount of truth in this view, but far less, I think, than you suppose. Cobden had no time to elaborate a system or trace all his opinions to their logical results, but he spent his life in talking and writing letters, and those who habitually lived with him or who corresponded with him will, I think, bear me out in saying that I have done little more than put into a connected. shape ideas which they have heard from him over and over again. So much was this the case that, among the little set of his intimate friends, there was a kind of freemasonry, which, almost without discussion, ensured an extraordinary degree of political sympathy on nearly all questions.”
One of the commonest charges against the socalled "Manchester school" is that, as a party of capitalists, they were unmindful of, if not indeed hostile to, the interests of the labouring classes. Of any such charge as affecting the leaders of the movement-assuming as it does a necessary antagonism between capital and labour-the whole tenor of these papers is a sufficient refutation-if, indeed, such were needed, in the face of the actual effects of the free trade policy. But personal utterances are always interesting, and the following words show how wide of the mark in my father's case would have been any suggestion of want of sympathy.
"I suppose that the first question which every one who is placed above want asks himself, when he begins to speculate upon social questions, is, Why have I so much, and others so little? While the poor man asks, Why have I so little, and others so much? I say at once that a man who meddles
in public affairs without having satisfied himself as to the relation in which these two phenomena stand to each other is a 'charlatan,' and is not entitled to have any share in the work of statesmanship.
"Certainly, for my own part, I remember the torment of this question, and, even as a boy, I could never rest until I had found some solution of this terrible enigma which my reason and conscience could accept. But it was only after the weary round of thought and inquiry through every form of social heresy that I reached solid ground at last in the free trade creed, and with it a necessary belief in the gradual emancipation of the millions, both materially and morally, and, therefore, politically."
To the view of economical science here indicated, upon which Sir Louis Mallet based his belief—a belief so remarkably justified by the history of the last fifty years-in free trade rather than in socialistic methods in politics, I shall return later. I will first say a few words on the foreign policy of the Manchester school.
The accusations of those who find in the Cobdenic policy an indifference to England's position as a great power, are based on a conception of national duties and responsibility so opposed to that held by freetraders, and betray so inadequate a comprehension of the real meaning and consequences of the repeal of the corn laws, that it would be impossible to attempt to answer them here. The answer can, moreover, be easily gathered from many of the following papers. It cannot, however, be denied that there were certain exaggerations in the utterances of some members of the party which have obscured the merit of their
work, and laid them open to criticism.
at any price" opinions,* for instance, the following passage sufficiently dissociates the writer :
"I entirely repudiate the method of laying down a hardand-fast rule in foreign policy. If one must formulate such a policy at all, I should say that, as our knowledge and our power and our interest in the affairs of other countries must be limited, so also should our interference be limited to cases in which these three elements are so combined as render it not only a positive, but (at the same time) a relative duty. I believe that, by a steady adherence to this rule, the chances of war would be reduced to the 'minimum.'”
His general view is clearly stated in the essay on Cobden, and in the letter to M. de Laveleye, written during the "Jingo" agitation of 1878; but I may be allowed to quote the following extracts from a private letter written about the same time, as they still further explain his position:
"It puzzles me how an economist and a Liberal can fail to see that the kind of way in which Europe has hitherto been governed, in which the people have been the mere tools and victims of governments and governing classes, is absolutely incompatible with democracy and free trade, and that the choice lies between two courses in deciding on the future foreign policy of England.
"The first programme would be a return to a system of
* On another occasion he thus expressed himself on "peace at any price: "This is a foolish charge brought against those who denounce unnecessary or unjust wars. Probably there are quite as few people, or fewer, who desire peace at any price, as those who desire war at any price. But there is this difference : peace is a good in itself, and an end in itself; war is an evil, and can never be desired by good men except as a means to peace."
foreign alliances, territorial extension, and the further subjugation of inferior races, which could only be successful if by infinite skill and extraordinary luck, by swagger, audacity, reckless expenditure, the sacrifice of all consistent principle, and the abandonment of all liberal progress at home, we threw back the moral and material condition of our people to that which prevailed fifty years ago, i.e. the restoration of a state of things which was not only a reproach and a scandal, but an imminent peril to all our institutions; for there can be no greatness or security to any people unless they rest on the material well-being of the population.
It is upon them
"The second course is not without risk either, but the cause is so sacred and the aim so great, that to my mind they would justify and glorify even failure, if fail we must. This is, to cast in our lot broadly and heartily with the interests of the people, by which I mean the working millions of the human race, beginning with our own. that the real cost of wars invariably falls. It is all very well for you or me to talk about sacrificing our lives and fortunes for the sake of some notion about honour and prestige, which, when analyzed, resolves itself into little more than a reflected self-glorification; but should we feel the same, should we accept, without much deeper and closer examination, a proposal which involved this sacrifice, if the result would be to send our wives to the workhouse, and turn our children on the streets? and this is what it really means to vast numbers of our countrymen."
"From a purely national point of view, the one thing which I feel most deeply and keenly is, that England, by a rare combination of accidents, and by the efforts of some of her greatest men, has achieved a unique position, and has a chance of pulling through the grandest political experiment that the world has seen. This chance will be imperilled and probably lost if we get into another era of wars.
then merely add another page to the history of the great empires which have risen and fallen in recorded time, in which national greatness and supreme physical power were the aim, and not the assertion of great principles."
From the comments on the subject in the paper on the "National Income and Taxation," with its grave and eloquent warnings as to the complacency with which this country, regardless of the claims of posterity, continues to accumulate Imperial responsibilities, it will be seen that, in the opinion of the author, England had in 1885 already thrown away the chance of "associating her name in history with the peaceful solution of social problems which affect the permanent interests of humanity"-a chance of which he had spoken with hopefulness in 1880. Apathy as to foreign policy has now taken the place of clamour, and it cannot be denied that we are very far removed from realizing any such conceptions as are here described of international relations; but it would not be difficult to point to signs which seem to afford the hope that, in this respect at any rate, Cobden's teaching may be destined to future triumphs.
I have reprinted the pamphlet on the "National Income and Taxation," which is important as a weighty exposition of general policy, and as insisting on the intimate connection between general and financial policy; and which is also noteworthy for an economical discussion as to whether the interest on the national debt should be estimated as forming part of the national income.