This collection consists of eleven autograph letters from Richard Cobden: five to Thomas Hunter, a fellow member and financial backer of the Anti-Corn Law League and six to Edmund Potter (1802–1883), calico printer and politician (Liberal MP for Carlisle 1861-1874), who was also a member of the Anti-Corn Law League. To Cobden, they were his closest friends and "privy council". They all had strong connections to the textile trade and the Liberal political circle in Manchester.
Cobden discusses a variety of personal and political matters in the letters. These letters to his closest friends, most marked "private", were written with free and unabashed insight into Cobden's inner feelings and opinions. The Corn Laws and free trade (linked by Cobden to peace between nations) figure most prominently, as well as Cobden's feelings upon his political prominence. Cobden also talks about other prominent politicians (such as Peel and Russell); parliamentary elections; educational reform; his journey to the continent to advocate free trade in 1846 and later involvement in the Anglo-French Commercial Treaty in 1860; diplomatic relations; the 'Durham Letter' affair over Catholic emancipation in 1851; and the industrial strikes at Preston in 1853.