**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


Richard Cobden
by [?]

Logic and reason failed to dislodge the folly, and finally it was left to a stripling reporter, turned novelist, to give us Squeers and Dotheboys Hall. This fierce ridicule was the thing which finally punctured the rhinoceros hide of the pedagogic blunder.

There is one test for all of our educational experiments–will it bring increased love? That which breeds hate and fosters misery is bad in every star. Compare the boarding-school idea with the gentle philosophy of Friedrich Froebel, and note how Froebel always insists that the education of the mother and her child should go forward hand in hand. Motherhood is for the mother, and she who shifts the care of her growing child to a Squeers, not only immerses her child in misery but loses the opportunity of her life.

When Richard was sixteen he was transferred from the boarding-school to his uncle’s warehouse in London. His position was that of a poor relation, and his work in the warehouse was to carry bundles and manipulate a broom. His shy and sensitive ways caught the attention of a burly and gruff superintendent, whose gruffness was only on the outside. This man said to the boy, before he had been sweeping a week: “Young ‘un, I obsarve with my hown hies that you sweeps in the corners. For this I raises your pay a shilling a week, and makes you monkey to the shipping-clerk.”

In a year the shipping-clerk was needed as a salesman, and Richard took his place. In another year Richard was a salesman, and canvassing London for orders. Very shortly after he became convinced that to work for relations was a mistake. Twenty years later the thought crystallized in his mind thus: Young man, you had better neither hire relatives nor work for them. It means servility or tyranny or both. You do not want to be patronized nor placed under obligations, nor have other helpers imagine you are a favorite. To grow you must be free–let merit count and nothing else. Probably this was what caused a wise man to say, “The Devil sent us our relatives, but thank Heaven we can choose our friends for ourselves.”

Relatives often assume a fussy patronizing management which outsiders never do. And so at twenty we find Cobden cutting loose from relatives. He went to work as a commercial traveler selling cotton prints. That English custom of the “commercial dinner,” where all the “bagmen” that happened to be in the hotel dine at a common table, as a family, and take up a penny collection for the waiter, had its rise in the brain of Cobden. He thought the traveling salesman should have friendly companionship, and the commercial dinner with its frank discussions and good-fellowship would in degree compensate for the lack of home. This idea of brotherhood was very strong in Richard Cobden’s heart. And always at these dinners he turned the conversation into high and worthy channels, bringing up questions of interest to the “boys,” and trying to show them that the more they studied the laws of travel, the more they knew about commerce, the greater their power as salesmen. His journal about this time shows, “Expense five shillings for Benjamin Franklin’s ‘Essays,'” and the same for “‘Plutarch’s Lives.'” And from these books he read aloud at the bagmen’s dinners.

Cobden anticipated in many ways that excellent man, Arthur F. Sheldon, and endeavored to make salesmanship a fine art.

From a salesman on a salary, he evolved into a salesman on a salary and commission. Next he made a bold stand with two fellow-travelers and asked for the exclusive London agency of a Manchester print-mill. A year later he was carrying a line of goods worth forty thousand pounds on unsecured credit. “Why do you entrust me with all these goods when you know I am not worth a thousand pounds in my own name?”

And the senior member of the great house of Fort, Sons and Company answered: “Mr. Cobden, we consider the moral risk more than we do the financial one. Our business has been built up by trusting young, active men of good habits. With us character counts.” And Cobden went up to London and ordered the words, “Character Counts!” cut deep in a two-inch oak plank which he fastened to the wall in his office.