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Lot 423
COBDEN, RICHARD (1804-1865, statesman and reformer, founder of the Anti-Corn Law League)
Sold for £660 (US$ 1,037) inc. premium

Lot Details
COBDEN, RICHARD (1804-1865, statesman and reformer, founder of the Anti-Corn Law League)
AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED ('Richd Cobden'), to Sir William Molesworth MP (1810-1855), of Pencarrow, Cornwall, mainly about the ballot; introducing himself as the 'Manchester Manufacturer', publisher of pamphlets on foreign policy, expressing himself 'very anxious to see something done to concentrate and accelerate the opinion of reformers upon the subject of the ballot' because the result of the elections [in 1837] has brought to light 'such a grand mass of violence & degradation' on the part of the electors that they might be gathered together 'in an irrisistible point of view' [i.e. favour the Tories]; to counter this he proposes that a society be formed in London for the purpose of advocating the ballot and that a person 'of talent & enthusiasm' be appointed to go throughout the country to lecture on the subject, gives practical exhibition of the ballot as it is conducted in France and America, and suggests that blankforms of petitions should be distributed, the local press galvanized and public spirited people appealed to in order to educate the public, comparing what needs to be done to the 'slave emancipation labors of Geo. Thompson' ('...'The ballot is not understood by the people at large; and all sorts of absurd notions exist about the phrase "vote by ballot": and to this ignorance the tories will successfully appeal so long as the liberals allow it to exist. The same mode of agitation must be followed up successfully upon such topics as the Corn Laws - army - Colonies - Bank of England &c before they can be properly understood by the ten-pounders who are in dark ignorance still upon all vital questions...'); Cobden gives an account of a meeting with Lieutenant Fabian and his words of support and himself proposes to give £50 towards the scheme if the Reform association in London backs it; he lists what would be necessary at the local meetings and categorically states that sending leaflets will not do since earlier experiences show that they fall 'like wet blankets upon the fire of reform' and one Tory read from one of them in the past in support of his own cause, 4 pages, quarto, integral address panel, trace of seal, post mark, hinged to mount, Manchester, 2 September 1837

Footnotes

  • COBDEN ON THE BALLOT. The vote had been granted to a much wider constituency by the Reform Act of 1835. Cobden is here activated by its consequences and the strong possibility that the Tories would reap the benefit, as had already been demonstrated in the election of 1837. Nicholas Edsall (Cobden, 1986) makes the point that Cobden's concern was for secret ballots.

    Molesworth, later First Commissioner of Works and Colonial Secretary, was not a natural ally of Cobden, who once said he was 'not a man of superior talents'.

    Cobden has been described as the person 'who headed the movement for the incorporation of his adopted city, Manchester; he was the leader of the most successful of Victorian mass agitations, the Anti-Corn Law League, and chief adviser to the movement for the repeal of newspaper taxes; he was the chief English negotiator of the Anglo-French commercial Treaty of 1860; and he was one of the earliest critics of the modern arms race.'
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