Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2

Contents:
Author: Richard Cobden

Show Summary
Speeches of Richard Cobden (ed. by Bright and Rogers), pp. 2 sqq. World History

Section 85.

Free Trade

304.

Cobden’s Denunciation of the Corn Laws

With all sincerity I declare that I am for the total repeal of those taxes which affect the price of bread and provisions of every description, and I will not allow it to be said without denying it, that the three millions of people who have petitioned the House for the total repeal of those taxes are not sincere in their prayer. What are those taxes upon food? They are taxes levied upon the great body of the people, and the honorable gentlemen opposite, who show such sympathy for the working classes after they have made them paupers, cannot deny my right to claim on their behalf that those taxes should be a primary consideration.

The Corn Laws impose a bread tax on the poor

I have heard them called protections; but taxes they are, and taxes they shall be in my mouth, as long as I have the honor of a seat in this House. The bread tax is a tax primarily levied upon the poorer classes; it is a tax, at the lowest estimate, of 40 per cent above the price we should pay if there were a free trade in corn [i.e. grain]. The report upon the hand-loom weavers puts down 10s. as the estimated weekly earnings of a family, and states that in all parts of the United Kingdom that will be found to be not an unfair estimate of the earnings of every laborer’s family. It moreover states, that out of 10s. each family expends 5s. on bread. The tax of 40 per cent is therefore a tax of 2s. upon every laboring man’s family earning 10s. a week, or 20 per cent upon their earnings. How does it operate as we proceed upwards in society? The man with 40s. a week pays an income tax of 5 per cent; the man of £250 a year pays but 1 per cent; and the nobleman or millionaire with an income of £200,000 a year, and whose family consumes no more bread than that of the agricultural laborer, pays less than one halfpenny in every £100. . . .

Condition of the working classes deteriorating

I will state generally, that, from both the manufacturing and agricultural districts, there was the most unimpeachable testimony that the condition of the great body of her Majesty’s laboring subjects had deteriorated woefully within the last ten years, and more especially so within the three years last past; and furthermore, that in proportion as the price of the food of the people had increased, just so had their comforts been diminished. When they who sit in high places are oppressive and unjust to the poor, I am glad to see that there are men amongst us who, like Nathan of old, can be found to come forward and exclaim, "Thou art the man!" The religious people of the country have revolted against the infamous injustice of that bread tax, which is condemned by the immutable morality of the Scriptures. They have prepared and signed a petition to this House, in which they declare that these laws are a violation of the will of the Supreme Being, whose providence watches over his famishing children.

Contents:

Related Resources

Industrial Revolution

Download Options


Title: Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options


Title: Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Richard Cobden Mr., "Free Trade," Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2 in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, ed. James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1908), 286–288. Original Sources, accessed July 3, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=39VMH2PTURA8U41.

MLA: Cobden, Richard, Mr. "Free Trade." Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2, in Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, edited by James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936) and Charles A. Beard, Vol. 2, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1908, pp. 286–288. Original Sources. 3 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=39VMH2PTURA8U41.

Harvard: Cobden, R, 'Free Trade' in Readings in Modern European History, Vol. 2. cited in 1908, Readings in Modern European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen With the Purpose of Illustrating Some of the Chief Phases of the Development of Europe During the Last Two Hundred Years, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.286–288. Original Sources, retrieved 3 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=39VMH2PTURA8U41.