Richard Cobden

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

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To JOHN BRIGHT69 Champs Elysées, Paris, 2 May 1860

Text: CP45 (TS)

2 May 1860

69, Champs Elysées


My dear Bright,

I don't ask you to take any body by the nose in public for me, but if you are in the habit of meeting any of the "Times" people privately just bear in mind the article in their paper of yesterday and rub their noses in it.1 After all sorts of lying misrepresentations about the Treaty they say—"A Commission has, however, now been appointed, consisting of Messrs. Cobden, Ogilvy, and Mallet, to revise these obvious errors, and to do now what ought to have been done before the Treaty was concluded".2 The Commission as you know is appointed in pursuance of a stipulation in the Treaty to arrange the details of the French tariff within certain limits agreed to. The matter could not have been arranged in any other way, and as for the "errors" there are none but what are in the imagination of the writer. I am often puzzled how educated men (out of Newgate) are to be found at a days notice to falsify any fact, to throw dirt on anybody, or to invent any lies—they surely must be hungry desperadoes! My next wonder is that a man like Walter,3 who is I suppose a church-going orderly person, and considers himself a good Christian, can feel quite free from the conscientious difficulty of reconciling to himself the enormous gains derived from systematic lying and slandering. As for the writers—they certainly would not like to be known. The mask4 is a terrible demoralizer to the writers in our London political press. Leaving the morality out of the question, I wonder the Times does not see the mistake of its attitude towards the Treaty, and how certainly its nose will be rubbed in its own filth ere long. The Treaty will be of an immense and growing importance to the two Countries and to Europe. I don't believe we have half appreciated its value, the public certainly has not in England, where there has been generally an impression that the duties are to be 30 per cent. The iron masters in France are beginning to memorialize to have the new tariff so pg 44far as their articles are concerned applied instantly.5 The delay has threatened to paralyse their trade. If pushed by this interest itself the Government will certainly apply the tariff forthwith to iron and machinery. I doubt the other interests will take the same course. They will prefer to put off the evil day.

I have been attending for a couple of days the debates in the "Corps Legislatif " here upon the Tariff.6 They have reminded me of old times in the House of Commons. If the Chamber had the power to settle the question we should be in a very poor minority. The protectionists have a very large majority, but everybody says that Free Trade is making most rapid progress in France. The French are a quick logical people and I predict they will carry out our principles with great expedition.

Believe me Yours truly, | R. Cobden

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 9ab (ed.).
Editor’s Note
4 Altered from 'mark' in typescript; see Cobden to Hargreaves, 2 May 1860, BL Add MS 43655 fos. 115–17; Morley, ii. 297–8, for the same phrase, referring to the anonymity of contemporary journalism, a practice which Cobden opposed with growing passion, see p. 446.
Editor’s Note
5 Under Article XV, new duties on iron and steel were due to come into effect on 1 Oct; those on machinery, tools, etc. on 31 Dec. 1860. See 1 Jan. to Gladstone, n. 6. For the French iron industry and the Treaty, Dunham, 161–79.
Editor’s Note
6 FD (28, 30 Apr., 1 May); Cobden to Hargreaves, 2 May, BL Add. MS 43655, fos. 115–17; CP96 (copy); Morley, ii. 297–8.
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