The Humble Farm Boy Who Made Britain Great

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.


In 1900, London was the global financial capital, the British enjoyed the highest per capita income in the world, and Britain was the freest of the free-trade nations.

“Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.” — Richard Cobden

William Ewart Gladstone, prime minister of Great Britain four times in the 19th century, boasted near the end of his life that, during his years in government, the country’s tariffs on foreign goods were nearly abolished. Gladstone rightly deserves much of the credit for reducing the state’s interference in commerce. An ardent protectionist and defender of the status quo early in his parliamentary career, he learned enough economics to turn to tax cuts on enterprise at home and free trade abroad. As chairman of the Board of Trade, chancellor of the Exchequer, and later prime minister, he played a key role in ridding the books of about 95 percent of Britain’s tariffs. But even Gladstone would acknowledge an intellectual debt to the one man regarded above all others as free trade’s greatest champion of the century, Richard Cobden.

“Amongst the most memorable men of the nineteenth century,” wrote Lewis Apjohn in his 1881 biography of Cobden, “we must assuredly count the small and active band who, first by popular agitation then by a gallant Parliamentary struggle, assailed and abolished the monopolies by which the material growth of the nation had so long been checked.”

Humble Beginnings

Cobden was set on an arduous path to greatness early on. Born in 1804 on a farm that could hardly support the family, Richard was sent to work as a clerk in an uncle’s warehouse at an early age. There he learned some important principles of business. He was later a traveling salesman before becoming an entrepreneur in the calico printing business in Manchester. In his 20s and early 30s, his keen mind and humanitarian impulses led him to speak out against harmful government policies — an interest that became a lifelong avocation thanks in no small part to the influence of another Victorian-era libertarian, John Bright.

Half a century before Cobden’s intellectual pursuits, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations made the case for free trade in a world that was highly protectionist. In 1815, Britain’s Parliament passed the infamous Corn Laws to protect domestic producers of grain against cheap imports, but Smith’s arguments ensured it was only a matter of time before principled opposition would arise. In 1839, Cobden and Bright formed the Anti-Corn Law League to promote free trade.

Historian Jim Powell, writing in the June 1995 issue of the Freeman, explained how this remarkable pair collaborated to make the league an extraordinary force:

Cobden and Bright helped focus free traders on three principal issues. First, they set an inspiring, radical objective — repealing the Corn Laws. Cobden convinced all supporters that every shilling of tariff inflicted misery on people. Modifying the tariffs, a position favored by compromise-minded chamber of commerce people, was out.

Second, free trade would capture the imagination of people if it became a moral issue. “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.”

Third, success would require a national campaign coordinating Anti-Corn-Law associations throughout England — the mission of the Anti-Corn Law League, launched in March 1839. This, in turn, called for vigorous fundraising. Cobden made arrangements to turn his calico printing and marketing business over to his partners.

Cobden hammered the Corn Laws for making people miserable. “He knew of a place,” noted biographer [John] Morley, “where a hundred wedding-rings had been pawned in a single week to provide bread; and of another place where men and women subsisted on boiled nettles, and dug up the decayed carcass of a cow rather than perish of hunger.”

Remarkable Success

The Anti-Corn Law League proved to be a remarkably effective grassroots campaign. By 1846, popular sentiment (and the plight of the starving Irish amid the potato famine) pressured Parliament to abolish the Corn Laws. Fourteen years later, Cobden successfully negotiated for the British what became known as the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860, the first free-trade pact between France and Britain, historic foes and once-ardent protectionist countries.

Signed just five years before Cobden’s death, the treaty was the fulfillment of something he had said a few years earlier: “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less.”

In the decade after the signing of the treaty, the volume of trade between the two nations nearly doubled.

Noninterventionism

Cobden would deserve a place of high honor in the history of liberty for his work on trade alone, but he had much to say about other issues, too. He was consistently noninterventionist, both at home and abroad.

In a March 1993 Freeman article, John Chodes presented Cobden’s view that Britain’s leaders had long “inhibited discovery and improvements by wasting millions on the military.”

Cobden saw Britain’s

obsession with the doctrine of the balance of power as a source of conflict, not stability. “Empires have arisen unbidden by us; others have departed despite our utmost efforts to preserve them.”

Gladstone was echoing Cobden’s sentiments precisely when he declared, “Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home.”

When Cobden died in 1865 at age 60, the French minister of foreign affairs eulogized him with these words:

He is above all in our eyes the representative of those sentiments and those cosmopolitan principles before which national frontiers and rivalries disappear.… Cobden, if I may be permitted to say so, was an international man.

Perhaps the greatest words of tribute came from Benjamin Disraeli, twice prime minister and an opponent of Cobden’s at the time of the Corn Law debate:

He was, without doubt, the greatest politician that the upper middle class of this country has yet produced … not only an ornament to the House of Commons but an honour to England.

I proudly display a sketch of Richard Cobden in my home office. The world needs his idealistic spirit now more than ever.

(This essay was adapted from the author’s article “Richard Cobden: The International Man,” in the September 2012 Freeman.)

For additional information, see:

 

Lawrence W. Reed


Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Fed up with just getting by?

100days-from-now_728x90

Let’s make today a day that’ll change your life.

Have you ever wanted to create a quantum leap and achieve some BIG goals fast?

And I mean really FAST!

Today is the day you learn how, and if you’re up for a challenge…this program is your ticket to  making this the best year of your life.

This is going to be a game changer for you because you’re going to remind yourself that you were not put on this earth to squeak by, to break even or to live small.

You’re here to break rules, to break records and to live a LARGE EPIC LIFE filled with big-time breakthroughs.

That’s why you are going to love what I have in store for you.

Check it out now, and…

MAKE SOMETHING BIG HAPPEN…NOW!

Dan Lier out with new book “Is Your Child Wired for Success?: The Incontestable Truth about Achievement”

dan-lier-book

What if you knew the environment you were providing for your child would be a launching pad or a hindrance for success? Human Behavior Expert Dan Lier shares his Psycho-Success Developmental Theory in which he provides data, along with applicable examples on how our children are “Wired for Success.” The father of behaviorism and one of the most prolific psychologists in the history of the world, John B. Watson sent a message to the mothers of the world that he could “program” their children to become anything from doctors to beggars. Was John B. Watson ahead of his time? Dan Lier shares how the environment we create, along with the 7 Principles for Success will either propel or inhibit your child from developing the skills necessary to find true happiness in their lives. You can purchase his new book here.

Dan Lier is a best-selling author, internationally recognized speaker and human behavior expert focused on productivity. Dan has presented his customized keynotes in over 30 countries to companies focused on increasing productivity and changing behavior. He is an an adjunct professor at the school of business and entrepreneurship at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. As a player Dan’s college basketball coach sent him to a psychologist in increase his rebounding. This was his introduction to psychology. Dan’s college basketball team won two successive national championships while going 70-5 over a two-year period. After earning his Master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University, he accepted an offer in the corporate world where he was then exposed to Dr. Denis Waitley in his training program, which opened more curiosity. Dan then studied Tony Robbin’s audio programs, tripled his income and become the #1 performer in his region. He went on to work with Tony Robbins for six year and was the top performer in his organization. Over the past 20+ years, Dan has studied the most prolific psychologists and their work, along with working, consulting and training with business executives. Dan is married and has two children, 18 and 16 years old.

Dan Lier out with new book "Is Your Child Wired for Success?: The Incontestable Truth about Achievement"

dan-lier-book

What if you knew the environment you were providing for your child would be a launching pad or a hindrance for success? Human Behavior Expert Dan Lier shares his Psycho-Success Developmental Theory in which he provides data, along with applicable examples on how our children are “Wired for Success.” The father of behaviorism and one of the most prolific psychologists in the history of the world, John B. Watson sent a message to the mothers of the world that he could “program” their children to become anything from doctors to beggars. Was John B. Watson ahead of his time? Dan Lier shares how the environment we create, along with the 7 Principles for Success will either propel or inhibit your child from developing the skills necessary to find true happiness in their lives. You can purchase his new book here.

Dan Lier is a best-selling author, internationally recognized speaker and human behavior expert focused on productivity. Dan has presented his customized keynotes in over 30 countries to companies focused on increasing productivity and changing behavior. He is an an adjunct professor at the school of business and entrepreneurship at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. As a player Dan’s college basketball coach sent him to a psychologist in increase his rebounding. This was his introduction to psychology. Dan’s college basketball team won two successive national championships while going 70-5 over a two-year period. After earning his Master’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University, he accepted an offer in the corporate world where he was then exposed to Dr. Denis Waitley in his training program, which opened more curiosity. Dan then studied Tony Robbin’s audio programs, tripled his income and become the #1 performer in his region. He went on to work with Tony Robbins for six year and was the top performer in his organization. Over the past 20+ years, Dan has studied the most prolific psychologists and their work, along with working, consulting and training with business executives. Dan is married and has two children, 18 and 16 years old.

Why I Love Monday’s…especially June 29th

transform-your-life_250x250

It hasn’t always been that way. For more years than I care to remember, I HATED Mondays!

I’d start thinking about the Monday coming as early as Saturday.

By late Sunday afternoon, I was dreading Monday so much that I was almost sick.

And I’m not the only one. The facts are, most heart attacks happen on…Monday morning!

But over the years I’ve found out that Mondays are really MARVELOUS!

It may be the most MAGIC day of the week…if you know how to MAXIMIZE Monday.

Download this free Manifesto and video which shows you how to maximize the last Monday of June, and more importantly, how to start the second half of the year fast, focused and fired up.

You’re going to love this!

-Karl

P.S. The free video series alone is outstanding,  but please be sure to read the Manifesto as soon as you can – it’s that good!

Your goal should be to create a life that you do not need a vacation from. – Rob Hill, Sr.

Why I Love Monday's…especially June 29th

transform-your-life_250x250

It hasn’t always been that way. For more years than I care to remember, I HATED Mondays!

I’d start thinking about the Monday coming as early as Saturday.

By late Sunday afternoon, I was dreading Monday so much that I was almost sick.

And I’m not the only one. The facts are, most heart attacks happen on…Monday morning!

But over the years I’ve found out that Mondays are really MARVELOUS!

It may be the most MAGIC day of the week…if you know how to MAXIMIZE Monday.

Download this free Manifesto and video which shows you how to maximize the last Monday of June, and more importantly, how to start the second half of the year fast, focused and fired up.

You’re going to love this!

-Karl

P.S. The free video series alone is outstanding,  but please be sure to read the Manifesto as soon as you can – it’s that good!

Your goal should be to create a life that you do not need a vacation from. – Rob Hill, Sr.

Tony Robbins Live at the National Achievers Congress 2015 – Video – @TonyRobbins

For over 30 years, Tony has developed the principles, systems and tools that make the difference in the quality of people’s lives and their level of success.

SUCCESS magazine - Jan 2015 Cover - Tony Robbins