Richard Cobden

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

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pg 176To JOHN BRIGHTMidhurst, 19 May 18611

Text: MS BL Add. MS 43651, fos. 238–9; CP45 (TS)

Midhurst 19 May 1861

My dear Bright

I arrived here last Evening, having come from Paris by way of New Haven2—I stayed a week in Paris, during which time I was very busy in making calls & dining out,—the latter the heaviest part of my work.—I saw the Emperor & had half an hours conversation with <him> very much in the manner of our interview when you were in Paris.—Rouher is terribly overworked, & looks as if the six weeks "vacance" which he promises himself at the German baths would improve his complexion which is very yellow & bilious.—I heard nothing new.—They have finished the Belgian treaty with merely nominal alterations of the French tariff as I left it.3—Declercq, from the Foreign Office at Paris,4 has been to Berlin to open negotiations with the Zollverein.—But he found them rather unreasonable in their proposals, & so he was brought back, after a distinct intimation from the French government that they would not treat on any other terms than a strict neutrality <reciprocity—>[.] I heard that they were beginning to feel their way for fresh negotiations, & with the hope of doing something.5—Indeed I do not know how the Zollverein can remain as it is, after France & Belgium have made so great a change.6—Altogether the affairs of the Continent seem to be less consolatory to the alarmists.—If we can only succeed in the more general application of the doctrine of "nonintervention" to European affairs, & especially to the affairs of Turkey in Europe, I do not see what danger there need be of the Great powers being involved in the yet unsettled troubles of the Continent.—It is the interference of other governments in the unsettled domestic disputes of certain nations which alone threatens the international peace of Europe.—

But all the European difficulties shrink into insignificance in comparison with the great danger which impends over the industry & almost the lives of <the population of> your district in consequence of the events now occurring in America.7—I cannot see how the North & South are ever to live together again in harmony; or how they are to arrange their present disputes without bringing the colored population into the arena as parties to the settlement.—If the war goes on, & a battle, in which a few hundred citizens of Massachusetts are killed & wounded, should occur, will not the fanatical anti-slavery party attain the ascendant in the federal government, & will not the slaves be invited to revolt?—On the other hand, should the South be daunted into submission by the unanimous uprising of the North, will the slaves again resume their abject relations to their subjected masters?—I confess I cannot see my way to any other result than the freedom, sooner or later, of the slaves.—To speak the honest truth, no other issue would justify a sanguinary civil war.—I am looking with great anxiety for the next advices.—The only hope of avoiding bloodshed & a servile war is an immediate accommodation.—How pg 177deplorable it is that the greatest & most ingenious industry ever known, should have for its basis the institution of slavery!—

Paulton is here with his wife & two children.8—The latter have been for a few weeks running wild with my children, & are very well in health.—

I have brought home no complaint excepting my stiff-neck. I saw the best doctor in Paris who says it is rheumatic & advises me to go for a month to a sulphur bath in the Pyrenees.—I shall see Sir Jas Clark9 who may perhaps find something as good nearer home.—Will you tell your neighbors who are interested in my coming visit to Rochdale that I shall be at their service any day after the 26th10—I suppose you will be in London towards the end of the week when I shall hope to shake hands with you.11—With our kind regards to Mrs Bright, believe me Yours truly

Ric Cobdenpg 178

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 After his visit to Burgundy (see 1 May to Mallet), Cobden returned to Paris on 6 May; where he had a further audience with the Emperor (12th), met several Americans (11th), dined with Prince Napoleon (13th), dined with Rouher (with whom he had discussed the treaty on 12 May), conversing at length with the French Minister of Marine, Admiral Chasseloup-Laubat (FD, 15 May; Morley, ii. 366–9). He had left Paris on 16 May, with a private railway carriage to Dieppe, whence he crossed to Newhaven on 17 May, reaching Dunford on 18 May.
Editor’s Note
2 Cobden was therefore travelling from France on 16 May, the day on which W. E. Forster became the first significant politician to meet the new American minister, Charles Adams (cf. 'had not bothered to come', Foreman, 94). See 1 June 1861 to Lindsay for their first meeting.
Editor’s Note
3 Signed at Paris, 1 May 1861, see C. Parry (ed.), The Consolidated Treaty Series (Dobbs Ferry, NY, 1969–), cxxiv. 101–53. For its consequences for the Anglo-French tariff, see PP 1861 lviii (2876), Tariffs.—Supplemental return for France. Tariff of France.—New duties levied under treaty between France and Belgium, and applicable to produce of United Kingdom under favoured nation clause of second supplementary convention to British and French treaty, dated 26 July (although some changes only came into effect on 1 Oct. 1861).
Editor’s Note
4 Alexandre Jehan Henry De Clerq (1813–85), Assistant Director of the Commercial section of French Foreign Office; author, Guide Pratique des consulats (1858) and editor, vols. i–xiii, Recueil des traités de la France (1864–82).
Editor’s Note
5 Negotiations, begun in Jan., ended in mid-Mar.; Cowley did not think they would lead 'to any advantages for Great Britain', to Gladstone, 8 Feb., BL Add. MS 44395, fos. 150–1; in his of 15 Apr. to Mallet, Cobden wrote, 'my friend Ellissen writes to me to day that Mr DeClerq has returned from Prussia without having done much good.—He (Mr E.) thinks that the envoy has not been sufficiently practical for his task', MaP. However, talks resumed in July and Aug. and again from Nov. until Mar., with the treaty initialled on 29 Mar. and finally signed on 2 Aug., W. O. Henderson, The Zollverein (2nd edn. London, 1959), 272–86; see too Scott Murray, Liberal Diplomacy and German Unification: The Early Career of Robert Morier (Westport, Conn., 2000), 145–56, 168.
Editor’s Note
6 The ratification of the treaty by the remaining members of the German Zollverein proved a decisive stage in the struggle between Prussia and Austria for economic supremacy (and political mastery) in Germany, with the treaty outbidding Austria's own attempt in 1862 to promote an Austrian–Zollverein custom union, Henderson, The Zollverein, 286–303. For British diplomatic views, see M. Mösslang, C. Manias, and T. Riotte (eds), British Envoys to Germany, 1816–1866, iv. 1851–66 (Camden 5th ser. 37, Cambridge, 2010), passim, including e.g. Fane, from Vienna, 11 Sept. 1862, 'Prussia, in a word, is, and will remain, the exponent of the principles of political liberty and commercial freedom in the Confederation' (21).
Editor’s Note
7 Namely an intimation of the 'Cotton Famine' as a result of the interruption of supplies of raw cotton from the American South with the onset of the Civil War. The confrontation at Fort Sumter (see 1 May to Mallet) had been followed by the secession of Virginia (and its large armoury at Harper's Ferry) and violence in Baltimore with eleven deaths; diplomatically Britain, despite the potential loss of raw cotton for its cotton industry, had recognized the North's blockade of the South as well as the South's belligerent status and had adopted (in stages) a position of official neutrality (9–15 May), intending to enforce the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819, which prohibited Britons from joining either army and selling or arming warships for either side, E. D. Adams, i. 76–102; McPherson, 276–94; Jenkins, i. 88–101; Foreman, 87–93.
Editor’s Note
8 Alice Mellor Paulton, 'Sissie' (1856–1915), later of Brighton; left £3,429; James Mellor Paulton, 'Buddie' (1857–1923), educated at the Cobdenite London International College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge; journalist and Liberal MP; left £36,794.
Editor’s Note
10 See 15 Apr. 1861 for the arrangements for Cobden's constituency visit. Bright had not yet written to Rochdale about this, pending further knowledge of Cobden's plans, to Cobden, 22 May, BL Add. MS 43384, fos. 252–3.
Editor’s Note
11 Cobden returned to London on 24 May, attending his first parliamentary debate since Aug. 1860 on Monday 27 May; he also met Gladstone (GD). See 28 May to Catherine. Bright (22 May, see n.10) had urged him to attend then when the repeal of the paper excise, part of the Customs and Inland Revenue Bill, was to be debated.
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