What I contend is that England is today so situated in every particular of her domestic and foreign circumstances that, by leaving other governments to settle their own business and fight out their own quarrels, and by attending to the vast and difficult affairs of her own enormous realm, and the condition of her people, she will not only be setting the world an example of noble morality, which no other nation is so happily free to set, but she will be following the very course which the maintenance of her own greatness most imperatively demands. It is precisely because Great Britain is so strong in resources, in courage, in institutions, in geographical position, that she can, before all other European powers, afford to be moral, and to set the example of a mighty nation walking in the paths of justice and peace.
Richard Cobden never had any chance in life. He was born in an obscure hamlet of West Sussex, England, in Eighteen Hundred Four. His father was a poor farmer, who lost his freehold and died at the top, whipped out, discouraged, when the lad was ten years old. Richard Cobden became a porter, a clerk, a traveling salesman, a mill-owner, a member of parliament, an economist, a humanitarian, a statesman, a reformer. Up to his thirteenth year he was chiefly interested in the laudable task of making a living–getting on in the world. During that year, and seemingly all at once and nothing first, just as bubbles do when they burst, he beheld the problem of business from the broad vantage- ground of humanitarianism. But he did not burst, for his dreams were spun out of life’s realities, and today are coming true; in fact, many of them came true in his own time. Richard Cobden ceased to be provincial and became universal.
He saw that commerce, instead of being merely a clutch for personal gain, was the chief factor in civilization. He realized that we are educated through our efforts to get food and clothing; and therefore the man who ministers to the material wants of humanity is really the true priest. The development of every animal has come about through its love-emotions and its struggle to exist.
A factory in a town changes every person in the town, mentally and physically. This being true, does not the management of this factory call for men of heart and soul–broad-minded, generous, firm in the right? Then every factory is influenced by the laws of the land, and each country is influenced by the laws of other countries, since most countries that are engaged in manufacturing find a market abroad.
Cobden set himself to inquire into the causes of discontent and failure, of progress and prosperity. And not content merely to philosophize, he carried his theories into his own enterprises.
Many of our modern business betterments seem to have had their rise in the restless, prophetic brain of Richard Cobden. He of all men sought to make commerce a science, and business a fine art. The world moves slowly.
It is only a few years ago that we in America thought to have in our President’s Cabinet a Secretary of Commerce and Labor.
Listen to what Cobden wrote in Eighteen Hundred Forty-three:
In the close council of every king, or president, or prince, should be a man of affairs whose life is devoted to commerce and labor, and the needs and requirements of peace. His work is of far greater moment than that of men-of-war. Battleships ever form a suggestion for their use, and as long as we have armies, men will kill, fight and destroy. Soldiers who do not want to fight are not of this earth. Prepare for war and war will come. When government gives to the arts of peace the same thought and attention that it gives to the arts of war, we will have peace on earth and good-will among men. But so long as the soldier takes precedence of the businessman in the political courts of the world, famine, death, disease and want will crouch at our doors. Commerce is production, war is destruction. The laws of production and distribution must and will be made a science; and then and not until then will happiness come to mankind and this earth serve as a pattern for the paradise of another life, instead of being a pandemonium.