Richard Cobden

The Letters of Richard Cobden, Vol. 4: 1860–1865

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pg 42To WILLIAM BIRD169 Champs Elysées, Paris, 26 April 18602

Text: MS Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas (Christopher Morley Collection)

Paris, 69 Champs Elysées

26 April 1860

My dear Sir

The question of iron will be taken first in the course of the inquiry, & it is expected to be gone into in about a week.—I shall be glad therefore if you will make arrangements to pay Paris a visit about the latter part of next week.3—If you think any other gentlemen representing particular branches of the iron interest ought to be invited to accompany <you> will you be good enough to suggest their names to Mr Booth.4—The inquiry will be extended to every branch of the iron industry.—The French iron masters are busily preparing their case.5

I remain Yours truly | R. Cobdenpg 43

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 William Bird (1805–84), iron merchant, son of Edward Bird and Margaret Bevan, of Cardiff; pioneered the iron trade with continental Europe, involved in negotiations with the Zollverein in 1844; guarantor and jury member at the Great Exhibition of 1851; commissioner at Paris Exhibition of 1855; director of the London Joint-Stock Bank, c.1844–84; founding director of the San Paolo Railway Company; chevalier, Légion d'Honneur; lived at Crouch Hall c.1847–82 (now the site of the clock tower at Crouch End); left £122,122, resworn as £120,862. Cobden had met Bird, with Bain, as representatives of the iron interest, at the Board of Trade on 14 Apr., FD. Cobden sent this letter to Booth at the Board for forwarding, suggesting at the same time that additional representatives of the iron trade might be sent, e.g. (Joseph) Robinson, 'a very intelligent man', well-known to Cobden: Cobden to Booth, 26 Apr., BL Add. MS 43670, fos. 15–17; CP77 (copy); Ante, ii. 565 n. 1, for Robinson.
Editor’s Note
2 On his return to Paris, Cobden had met several English businessmen, some such as William *Ecroyd, providing him with useful information preparatory to the negotiations, others such as N. Forester Edwards, pressing their own private interests. He had also learnt, from Arlès-Dufour, of the difficulty in enlisting support for the recently formed pro-treaty free trade association as most political economists were strong Orleanists; he had also had a lengthy interview on 25 Apr. with Persigny, much concerned with Napoleon III's growing centralization of decision-making, and mooting retirement as a result. On 26 Apr. he had met again Herbet, the chairman of the French commission, Léon Amé, one of Herbet's colleagues, and Rouher, as a result of which he was alarmed to learn 'of the extent of the work cut out for the Commission & the length of time it is expected to last', FD (26 Apr.).
Editor’s Note
3 Bird arrived at Paris on 4 May (FD), dining with Cobden; Cobden introduced him, with Robinson, to Cowley on 10 May, with their giving evidence to the Commission later that day, Enquête, i. 48. They appear not to have met the Emperor as Cobden had hoped. See too Cobden to Bird, 1 May, Columbia University, Gen. MS. Collection; Cobden to Bird, 4 (bis) and 11 May, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas (Christopher Morley Collection); Cobden to Cowley, 10 May ('both men are highly intelligent & thoroughly trustworthy', TNA, FO519/300.
Editor’s Note
4 James *Booth (1796/7–1880), civil servant, son of Thomas Booth, Unitarian merchant, Liverpool; trained as a lawyer, influenced by the philosophical radicals; served on Royal Commission on Municipal Corporations; appointed counsel to Speaker in 1839 and responsible for Clauses Consolidation Acts of 1845 and 1847; appointed secretary to Board of Trade in 1850, retiring in 1865; a key influence on the report in 1869 of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions, which he saw as a form of protection, antithetical to the spirit and practice of free trade. Booth acted as the intermediary between the Board of Trade and the British commissioners in Paris.
Editor’s Note
5 See 28 May 1860 to Bright for the strongly protectionist French iron industry.
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