COBDEN, Richard, 1804- 1865, statesman and businessman

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

24 letters from Richard Cobden to Thomas Thomasson on political and personal matters and one memorandum (2 letters incomplete).

Administrative / Biographical History

Richard Cobden was born in Heyshott, near Midhurst, Sussex, the son of a farmer. Cobden's father was poor and was obliged to send his eleven children to various relatives. He was sent to an uncle in Yorkshire where he was mistreated. Cobden received little formal schooling and in 1819 became a clerk in the textile industry. In 1820 he became a commercial traveller. After developing a knowledge of the cotton trade he became a partner in a London calico factory. The business was a success and in 1831 he also became a partner in a Lancashire calico factory. By 1832 Cobden was living in an affluent part of Manchester. He wrote about the subject of economics in the "Manchester Examiner" and published pamphlets on free-trade (1838-1846). Between 1833 and 1837 Cobden visited France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, America, Egypt, Greece and Russia. He was a leader of the Anti-Corn Law League 1838-1846. The Corn Laws had been passed during the Napoleonic Wars (1804 and 1818) to impose duties on imported corn, and led to high bread prices. The Anti-Corn Law League succeeded in having the corn laws repealed in 1846. Cobden was MP for Stockport 1841-1847, and for the West Riding of Yorkshire 1847-1857. Cobden campaigned against the Crimean War (1854-1856), despite the public's support for the war, and Cobden subsequently lost his seat on Parliament in the General Election of 1857. In the General Election of 1859 he was elected MP for Rochdale. He was offered the post of President of the Board of Trade (1859) and a baronetcy (1860), but refused both. Cobden died of an acute attack of bronchitis on 2nd April 1865. His publications include: 'Agricultural distress: speech of R. Cobden...in the House of Commons, on Thursday, the 13th of March, 1845, on moving for a select committee to inquire into the extent and causes of the alleged existing agricultural distress, and into the effects of legislative protection upon the interest of landowners, farmers, and farm-labourers' (1845); 'Alarming distress: speech of Richd. Cobden, Esq. in the House of Commons on Friday evening, July 8, 1842' (1842); 'The corn laws: speech of R. Cobden, Esq., MP, in the House of Commons, on Thursday evening, February 24, 1842' (1842); 'England, Ireland, & America' (1835); 'How wars are got up in India: the origin of the Burmese war' (1853).

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Archivist's Note

Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on May 8, 2002

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