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Sep 14, 2004 10:16 am

Richard Cobden on Non-Intervention

Reading Richard Cobden (1804-1865), the great Victorian-era champion of free trade, I discovered that he was also eloquent and passionate in his loathing of British imperialism and militarism. Here are some choice passages.

“How shall a profession which withdraws from productive industry the ablest of the human race, and teaches them systematically the best modes of destroying mankind, which awards honours only in proportion to the number of victims offered at its sanguinary altar, which overturns cities, ravages farms and vineyards, uproots forests, burns the ripened harvest, which in a word, exists but in the absence of law, order, and security – how can such a profession be favourable to commerce, which increases only with the increase in human life, whose parent is agriculture, and which perishes or flies at the approach of lawless rapine?”

- from “Protection of Commerce,” THE POLITICAL WRITINGS OF RICHARD COBDEN (London: Fisher Unwin, 1903), pp. 245-246.

“It is by studied misrepresentation of what is going on upon the Continent that our enormous standing armaments are maintained and defended in this country.”

- from “Finance II”, SPEECHES OF RICHARD COBDEN (no further citation), p. 247.

“This brings me to another position which has an important bearing on the reduction of our armaments, and that is, we must let other people manage their own affairs. The Spaniards, who have very wise maxims, say, ‘A fool knows more of what is going on in his own house than a wise man does in that of his neighbor.’”

- id.

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