Letter to Thomas Hunter

Scope and Content

Letter sent from London, labelled "private". Cobden thanks Hunter for his letter and thinks back to last autumn, when Hunter and "our good friends" [Edmund] Potter and [Henry] Ashworth [1794–1880, cotton master] made a "wise decision" regarding Cobden's course of action: had it not been for the "potato-panic", Cobden writes, he would have been forced to abandon his public career. Now he thinks they are approaching a "virtual settlement of the corn question", he feels he must attend to his "private concerns again", having made provisional arrangements regarding their management during the campaign. Cobden says he is expected to take a "leading part in future political affairs" but does not think himself up to the task. Cobden admits he has been thinking for months of how to escape from this, feeling one solution is to retire from Parliament "as soon as the corn question is safe".

Cobden mentions the testimonial fund-raising on his behalf and says others have as good a claim as he does to the public consideration and fame. He, however, feels that he cannot refuse any "voluntary public subsidy". He believes an "interregnum" from public life would increase his "power of usefulness". However, Cobden feels he could not be a "party politician": "official life would not suit me". Nevertheless, this might be overcome "for the sake of usefulness". Cobden writes that the bill has still to pass the Lords and there is still support for a fixed duty on corn. Cobden talks of [Sir Robert] Peel [1788–1850, second baronet, prime minister], where his strongest hopes lie, Lord John [Russell, 1792–1878, later first Earl Russell, prime minister and author] and Sir James Graham [1799–1874, later fourth Duke of Montrose, politician].