The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 54
Annual Meeting of the Cobden Club
Annual Meeting of the Cobden Club.
The annual general meeting of the Cobden Club was held on Saturday afternoon, June 27th, at the National Liberal Club, Trafalgar Square, London. Mr. Thomas Bayley Potter, M.P., honorary secretary, occupied the chair, and there were also present:—The Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P.; Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart., M.P.; Mr. William Woodall, M.P.; Mr. W. Summers, M.P.; Mr. John Barran, M.P.; Mr. P. T. Mappin, M.P.; Mr. T. W. Evans, M.P.; the Right Hon. A. S. Ayrton, Mr. J. W. Probyn (hon. treasurer), Mr. Robert C. Adams (Vice-President of the Montreal Free Trade Club), Mr. G. W. Medley, Mr. A. G. Henriques, Mr. C. S. Salmon (formerly President of the Island of St. Nevis), Lieut.-General Gloag, Mr. W. Wren, Mr. E. Oppenheim, Mr. Septimus Vaughan. Morgan, Mr. M. M. Monro, Mr. Edward J. Watherston, Captain W. J. Eastwick, Mr. W. Pirie Duff, Mr. Charles Hancock, Mr. H. M. Phillips, Mr. F. W. Chesson, Mr. William Digby, C.I.E., Mr. Frank Evans, Mr. W. Martin Wood, Mr. Joseph Crooke Haslam, Mr. M. Makower, Mr. Richard Gowing (secretary), &c.
The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, said: The circumstances under which we meet to-day have a peculiar interest to members of the Cobden Club. We had a distinct warning early last Autumn that the great principles of Mr. Cobden, as regards the fiscal policy of the country, were threatened. I, myself, took the alarm when many of my friends thought it was needless; but I felt convinced of the reality of the opposition to Free Trade, and immediately acted on the policy of a determined resistance to any changes which might be intended by the Fair Traders—or Protectionists as they should rightly be called. (Hear, hear.) It was not surprising to me that a great effort should be made by the landed interest to re-impose taxes on food, considering the difficulties under which they have been labouring for some time. They did not take into account the fact that no Protection has been afforded to the suffering industries of commerce. They considered themselves within their right to try to bolster up their own interest without regard to the burdens which they were willing to place on the great masses of the people. In the month of November the Committee of the Cobden Club arrived at the conclusion that the best mode of reaching the masses was neither by speeches nor pamphlets, but by short, telling leaflets, which could be taken home and digested at leisure by the new voters and other electors. I wrote myself to a number of friends, asking them to help in this work, and my letters met with a hearty response, for they realised about £2,500 for the Special Publication Fund. This fund has been, I think, well expended, and nearly eight millions of leaflets have been circulated or are now in preparation. In order to carry page 3 out this work the Committee has appealed to new candidates for seats in Parliament, and others who may require a further supply of leaflets, to contribute to the necessary fund, either by purchase of the leaflets or by contributions direct towards the Special Fund. As the General Election is near at hand a further supply of money is absolutely needful. Alluding to the recent change of Government, it is well that the friends of Free Trade should note carefully that there are a great number of the new Ministers who are committed to the policy of interference with our present fiscal system. The names of the Protectionists in that list are ominous. Some may ask for inquiry; others have already demanded a tax on food; the special burdens on land and agriculture are urged by all; the just modification of the death duties was the main object of the attack on the Budget by which the Government was defeated; and practically the Cobden Club has now to meet a strong and determined effort to restore Protection in one form or another. The work of the Cobden Club is to develope, not to narrow, the Free Trade policy. We advocate Free Trade everywhere—at home, in the colonies and dependencies, as well as in foreign countries, when the taxpayers of those countries see their real interest in the question. As for our colonies and dependencies, the day is past when British interests alone are to be considered rather than the general welfare of the people of those distant lands. The efforts of the Club are now being directed specially to the Crown colonies, where our Government has a certain amount of control; and a second pamphlet, written for the Cobden Club by Mr. Salmon, will, I believe, greatly promote this object. At this juncture the Cobden Club must not lose sight of the fundamental rule on which it was established—"to encourage the growth and diffusion of those economical and political principles with which Mr. Cobden's name is associated." (Hear, hear.) The general politics of the day will afford plenty of work by which the Committee of the Club may uphold the great Liberal political principles which Mr. Cobden advocated. We advocate not merely Free Exchange of all commodities, but we advocate Free Trade in land—(hear, hear)—and every object which will secure civil and religious equality to all the people. (Applause.) I call upon the secretary to read the report for the past year.
The Secretary (Mr. Richard Gowing) then read the following report of the Committee for the year 1884-5:—
"This has been a year of more than ordinary interest and activity in connection with the work of the Cobden Club. On the 19th of July last, when your Committee presented their report for the year then past, the country was in the midst of the excitement consequent upon the refusal of the House of Lords to proceed with the Franchise Bill in the absence of the Seats Bill; but there seemed to be no prospect whatever of a popular revival, in any shape, of the old controversy between Free Trade and Protection in this country; and your Committee had not the slightest reason to anticipate that in the course of four or five months they would find themselves face to face with a demand for the re-imposition of the Corn Laws. But early in the autumn, in the midst of the public satisfaction at the news of a good harvest, complaints of the low price of corn began to be heard, and an informal but wide-spread agitation was begun in the rural districts, whose purpose appeared to be to create a public feeling in favour of Protection. Before August was out Mr. Clare Sewell Read, M.P., at a meeting in Norfolk, referred to the low price of wheat as a great public question. In October, in the course of a contest for the repre-sentation of South Warwickshire, your Committee received information from page 4 all parts of that division to the effect that the question of a duty on corn was one of the chief elements in the contest; Mr. Sampson Lloyd, the Pair Trade candidate, was returned by a large majority, and from communications which reached your Committee from the agricultural districts in many parts of the country your chairman, in addressing his constituents at Rochdale, in October, felt warranted in warning them that there was a distinct danger of the cry of taxes on food being raised by the political representatives of the landed interest on the plea of low and unremunerative prices. Your Committee took measures to obtain all possible information as to the strength and progress of this movement, they consulted the recognised representatives of the feeling of the masses of the people in the agricultural districts, and they were led to enter at once upon what has been called the 'leaflet campaign.' They had found reason to believe that the most effective way of spreading correct information and sound views on the Free Trade Question would be by the circulation, in vast numbers, of small leaflets of one, two, three, or four pages, exposing the fallacies of the Fair Traders and Protectionists, and explaining the real effects of Protective tariffs on the one hand and Free Trade on the other hand upon the condition of the country and the prosperity of the people. The Club had previously had three or four of such leaflets in circulation; for these there had been a very great demand; and your Committee proceeded to add largely to the list. Amongst the first of the new leaflets was a letter by the Right Honourable John Bright, M.P.; on 'Fair Trade,' which was succeeded by leaflets specially written for the Club, many of which have been extremely popular, by the Right Honourable W. E. Baxter, M.P., Mr. George W. Medley, Sir Bernard Samuelson, Bart., M.P., Mr. Arthur Arnold, M.P., Mr. Joseph Arch, Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, Mr. J. Hampden Jackson, Mr. Alfred Simmons, Mr. J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P., Mr. Sydney C. Buxton, M.P.., Mr. Edward North Buxton, Mr. Charles Whitehead, Mr. John Noble, and several others. The Committee began by printing these leaflets at the rate of fifty thousands of each, but they soon found it necessary to print a hundred thousands of each at a time; and on one or two occasions Messrs. Cassell and Company's machines have been set to work to print off sixteen hundred thousands of the leaflets at one working. Those printed and now in course of being printed, since the beginning of December, number more than eight millions, of which some seven millions have been circulated. Your Committee are happy to report that the circulation of these leaflets by the Club has been very much facilitated by the great readiness with which the local Liberal Associations, supplied by your Committee, have delivered them to the people in town and village all over the country, and the thanks of your Committee are due not only to the organised Liberal Societies but also to active representatives amongst the labourers and artisans themselves, who have entered enthusiastically into the spirit of this work, and who have continually made reports to the Committee of the great interest with which the leaflets are received and read by the people.
"It soon became evident to your Committee that this was a far greater and more expensive work than could be carried out by means of the ordinary resources of the Club; and the chairman of your Committee, Mr. Potter, encouraged by the manner in which former appeals had been responded to, made application to the members and friends of the Club for subscriptions to a Special Publication Fund to meet the emergency. Mr. Potter and your Committee are deeply sensible of the readiness and generosity of the response to this appeal. After writing a large number of private letters, and securing page 5 in reply some handsome subscriptions, Mr. Potter sent out a lithographed letter to every member and honorary member of the Club, and to many others interested in the cause, in the following form:—
"Reform Club Chambers, 105, Pall Mall, S.W.,
January 23th, 1885.
"My dear sir,—The Cobden Club Committee have decided to raise a fund for the purpose of publishing a large number of leaflets and pamphlets to educate the new voters, and to oppose the advocates of Fair Trade. It is not possible with the ordinary subscriptions to carry out the object successfully, so I have written to a few gentlemen who have given me their names as below for 'The Special Publication Fund.'
"Will you kindly contribute whatever sum you may think fit?—Yours, most truly,(Signed) "
Thomas Bayley Potter.
"Subscriptions should be sent to the London and Westminster Bank, St. James's Square Branch, to be credited to the Cobden Club 'Special Publication Fund.'"
"The list of subscriptions was headed by a cheque from Mr. J. P. Thomasson, M.P., for £200; and amongst the earliest to respond to the appeal were Sir Thomas Brassey, K.C.B., M.P., £200; His Grace the Duke of Westminster, £100; Mr. Isaac Holden, M.P., £100; Sir Nathaniel M. de Rothschild, Bart., M.P., £100; Mr. John Corbett, M.P., £100; Mr. A. H. Brown, M.P., £100; Mr. William Birkmyre, £130; Lord Wolverton, £50; Sir Joseph W. Pease, Bart., M.P., £50; Sir Andrew Pairbairn, M.P., £50; Mr. George Palmer, M.P., £50; Mr. Hugh Mason, M.P., £50; Mr. Mitchell Henry, M.P., £50; Mr. Samuel Morley, M.P., £50; the Marquis of Ripon, K.G., £50; Mr. Hamar Bass, M.P., £50; Mr. C. Waring, £50; the Right Honourable H. Campbell-Bannerman, M.P., £25; Mr. W. Rath-bone, M.P., £25; the Bight Honourable W. E. Gladstone, M.P., £20; Mr. T. Ash ton, £20. Other subscribers to the Special Publication Pundare:—Mr. II. A. Brassey, M.P., £50; Mr. Edward North Buxton, £30; Mr. W. Westgarth, £25; Mr. P. T. Mappin, M.P., £25; Mr. J. P. Bryce, £25; Mr. J. J. Colman, M.P., £25; Mr. G. W. Medley, £20; Mr. J. T. Brunner, £20; Mr. John Rylands, £20; Mr. John Barran, M.P., £20; Mr. P. P. Arbuthnot, £50; Col. D. Gamble, £25; Mr. John Bell, £20; Mr. James Worthington, £25; Mr. J. S. Kennedy (New York), £25; Mr. Thomas Watson, £20; Mr. Robert Jardine, M.P., £25; Mr. J. P. P. Grundy, £20; Mr. D. H. Macfarlane, M.P., Lord Northbrook, Mr. Joseph Craven, Mr. Lewis Pry, M.P., Mr. T. Clemens Watson, Mr. Andrew Johnston, Mr. George Dixon, Mr. T. W. Evans, M.P., Mr. A. Hubinet, Mr. Lawrence J. Baker, Mr. Prederick Pish, Mr. John Brinton, M.P., Mr. T. Rowley Hill, M.P., Mr. Charles Thomas, Mr. Sydney Woolf, Mr. T. C. Ryley, Mr. Thomas P. Warren, Mr. C. H. James, M.P., Mr. W. C. Plowden, Mr. R. C. Fisher, Mr. H. Yates Thompson, Mr. Vincent S. Lean, Mr. John Jupe, Mr. Anthony Rich, Sir Bernard Samuelson, Bart., M.P., Baron Northbourne, Mr. J. L. Nicholson, Mr. C. S. Hayne, Sir T. H. Farrer, Bart., Mr. William Hinmers, Mr. Charles Green, Mr. W. H. Wills, M.P., Mr. Henry Wardle, Mr. William Brough (U.S. America), Mr. Richard Tangye, Mr. M. M. Monro, Mr. Lewis Maclver, M. Jean Dollfus (Prance), Mr. G. W. Palmer, Mr. J. M. Paulton, Mr. James Clifton Brown, Mr. H. R. Ladell, Mr. H. C. Beeton, Sir S. Morton Peto, Bart., Mr. William Crossfield, Sir James Ramsden, Mr. James Solly, Mr. Hugh P. Powell, Mr. T. R. Wilkinson, Mr. Horace Davey, Mr. P. N. Muller (Holland), Mr. R. B. Mackie, M.P., Sir J. B. Phear, M. Dreyfus (Prance), Mr. J. Pulley, M.P., Right Hon. Sir T. D. Acland, Bart., M.P., Mr. Charles Spink, Mr. J. P. B. Baert (Holland), Mr. William Shaen, Mr. Henry Peto, Mr. T. Holland (U.S. America), Mr. A. Gröning (Germany), &c. The Special Fund at the present date amounts to nearly £2,500. It is an page 6 incidental advantage of the dissemination of information by means of leaflets that a good deal of ground is covered with a comparatively small expenditure; but in view of the enlargement of the franchise and the coming General Election the demand for this form of literature is very great, and your Committee will be thankful for additional donations to the leaflet and Special Publication account. The numerous communications which they receive from the rural districts and from the centres of population enable them to offer the most confident assurances that this method of promoting the growth and diffusion of the principles of the Club is having a large and salutary influence.
"Your Committee have not, however, neglected the usual work of the Club at home and abroad. Last year in their report they gave a body of facts as to the evils of the elaborate systems of tariffs in the West India Islands. Shortly after the issue of that report Mr. C. S. Salmon, formerly President of the Island of St. Nevis, wrote for the Club a pamphlet on 'The Depression in the West Indies: Free Trade the only Remedy,' which has been very largely distributed in this country and in our colonies. In the course of its circulation your Committee were led to think that the time was not unfavourable for raising the whole question of the pernicious tariff system in operation in the British Colonies under the control of the Crown. They hope that public opinion may be so informed as to bring a pressure to bear upon the Government and upon the Colonial Office with a view to the abolition of Protective tariffs in the Crown Colonies; and, at the Committee's request, Mr. Salmon is preparing a pamphlet on the general question in relation to alt these Colonies, for publication and distribution by the Club.
"The question of the government of India has happily attracted an increasing share of public attention of late, partly by reason of the highly liberal policy which has been pursued under the Viceroyalty of the Marquis of Ripon, one of the earliest members of your Club. Last year your Committee sought to assist in advancing public opinion in favour of the further opening up of India to the commerce of the world by the construction of railways into the interior; this year they have given circulation to a pamphlet by Mr. William Birkmyre, a member of the Club, on 'The India Council,' by way of raising the question whether the time is not drawing near for important reforms with respect to the Council.
"The speech of the Right Honourable Sir Charles Dilke, as chairman at the Club's dinner on the 13th inst., affords an interesting and eloquent review of the recognition and influence of the principles of Richard Cobden in the recent government of this country in relation to International Arbitration; to the policy of the neutralisation of Egypt; to remedial legislation in Ireland; to Single Member Constituencies and Electoral Districts in our representative system, and to prospective Reforms in our Land Laws. Summing up his remarks with reference to foreign affairs, and to the policy advocated by Richard Cobden, Sir Charles Dilke happily said: 'Thus, in my belief, by an application of Cobden's methods, we may see daylight, if the guidance of our affairs be wise, through troubles which otherwise might disturb the world.'
"The subject for the essay competition this year for the Cobden Club triennial prize of £60, offered at Victoria University, Manchester, is, 'The History of the Economic Theories of Rent.' The examiners are Mr. E. T. Cook, M.A., nominated by the Club, Mr. R. C. Christie, M.A., nominated by the Vice-Chancellor, and Professor Munro, ex-oflicio. The essays have been sent in, and your Committee expect that the award will be made known page 7 within the next few days. For the next triennial prize of £60 offered at Cambridge University, the subject is, 'A History and Explanations of the Fluctuations in the Commercial Prosperity of England during the last twenty-five years.' Sir Louis Mallet as kindly consented to act as adjudicator, appointed by the Club. The Cobden Medal for 1884, at the London International College, has been awarded to Mr. Percy Blackburn. The medal offered at Bombay University, in the same year, was won by Mr. Pestanji Jamasji Pàdshàh, the brother of Mr. Barjorji Jamasji Pàdshàh, to whom the medal was awarded in 1883. At Williams College, Massachusetts, your Committee have just learned the Cobden Medal for 1885 is awarded to Mr. George Weston Anderson, of Acworth, New Hampshire. Your Committee have renewed in the present year their accustomed offers of various small prizes for the encouragement of the study of Political Economy at the London International College, the Classes of the London Society for the Extension of University Teaching, &c.
"Depression in the West Indies: Free Trade the Only Remedy." Written for the Cobden Club by C. S. Salmon, formerly President of the Island of St. Nevis. (Cassell.) 10,000 Copies.
"The Three Panics; an Historical Episode." By Richard Cobden. (Cassell.) 5,000 copies.
"Our Land Laws of the Past." By the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P. (Cassell.) 10,000 copies, in addition to 30,000 previously circulated.
"Free Trade and English Commerce." By Augustus Mongredien. (Cassell.) 10,000 copies, in addition to 78,500 copies previously circulated.
List of Members and Committee's Reports, 2,000 copies.
"Free Trade in Land." By F. F. Arbuthnot. (Cassell.) 50.100 copies.
"A Primer of Tariff Reform." By the Hon. David A. Wells, Norwich, Conn., U.S. America. (Cassell.) 10,000 copies.
"The History of Reform." By Alexander Paul. (Routledge.) 1,500 copies, in addition to 1,500 previously circulated.
"The Peers and the People." (Pall Mall Gazette.) 20.000 copies.
"The Use of a Vote." By C. T. D. Acland. M.P. 10,000 copies.
"Free Trade v. Fair Trade." By Sir T. H. Farrer, Bart. (Cassell.) 3,000 copies (revised and enlarged edition), in addition to 10,000 copies, previously circulated.
"The Public Letters of the Right Hon. John Bright." (Sampson Low.) 2,012 copies.
"What shall I do with my Vote?" By Ernest Parke. 5,000 copies.
"The Progress of the Working Classes during the last Half Century." By Robert Giffen, LL.D. (Bell & Sons.) 1,000 copies, in addition to 30,030 copies previously distributed.
"The Work of the Liberal Party during the last Fifty Years." A Letter addressed by the Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., to Mr. Townsend. (National Press Agency.) 10,000 copies.
"The House of Lords." Speech by the Right Hon. John Bright, in Bingley Hall, Birmingham. (National Liberal Federation.) 1,000 copies.
"History of the Free Trade Movement in England." By A. Mongredien. (Cassell.) 1,000 copies, in addition to 7,000 previously circulated.
"The Land Question." Lecture by Mr. Charles A. Fyffe, M.A., Liboral Candidate for the City of Oxford. 5,000 copies.
"History of the Great Bread Riots, 1890." By S. L. Strachey. (Arrowsmith.) 2,100 copies.page 8
"The India Council." By William Birkmyre, of Calcutta and Port Glasgow. (Cassell.) 5,000 copies.
"Free Trade in Land." By Joseph Kay. (Kegan Paul & Co.) 3,000 copies (with note by the Eight Hon. G. Osborne Morgan, M.P.), in addition to 720 copies previously circulated.
"Six Centuries of Work and Wages." By J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. (Sonnenschein.) 100 copies of cheap edition.
"A Short History of the English People." By J. R. Green. (Macmillan.) 50 copies, in addition to 250 previously circulated.
"The Free Trade Speeches of the Right Hon. Charles Villiers." People's edition. (Kegan Paul & Co.) 50 copies, in addition to 100 previously circulated.
"Wealth and Want: A Social Experiment made and described by H. Broadbent, Esq." Edited for the Press by the Rev. George Masterman. (Walter Scott.) 100 copies.
"What Protection docs for the Farmer. A Chapter of Agricultural History." By J. S. Leadam, M.A. (National Press Agency.) 350 copies.
"History of the Radical Party in Parliament." By William Harris. (Kegan Paul & Co.) 51 copies.
"Cobden and Political Opinion." By J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. (Macmillan.) 150 copies, in addition to 921 previously circulated.
"The Future Work of Free Trade in English Legislation." Oxford Prize Essay. By C. S. Troup. (Unwin.) 20 copies, in addition to 30 previously distributed.
"The Distribution of Products." By Edward Atkinson, U.S. America. (Putnam.) 35 oopies.
"The Transfer of Land by Registration." By Sir Robert Torrens, K.C.M.G. (Cassell.) 5,000 copies, in addition to 5,000 previously circulated.
"Popular Fallacies regarding Free Trade and Foreign Duties." By Frédéric Bastiat. Adapted to the present time by Edward Robert Pearce-Edgcumbe. 5,000 copies of revised edition, in addition to 11,000 copies previously circulated.
Report of the Proceedings at the Annual General Meeting of Members of the Cobden Club, 1884. 25,000 copies.
Report of the Proceedings at the Colden Club Dinner, 1885. 50.000 copies.
"Political Writings of Cobden." (Ridgway). 20 copies, in addition to 732 previously circulated.
"The Voice of India." 30 copies monthly for twelve months, commencing May, 1885.
"Total number of Books and Pamphlets circulated (exclusive of leaflets) since the last General Meeting. 252,998. The Cobden Club leaflets have been distributed as follows:—
No. 1.—"The Dog and the Shadow." 200,000 copies, in addition to 150,000 previously circulated.
2.—"What does Reciproeity-Protection propose to do?" 200,000 copies, in addition to 150,000 previously circulated.
3.—"The Results of Protection in Germany." 150,000 copies, in addition to 120,000 previously circulated.
4.—The Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., on "Fair Trade." 250,000 copies.
5.—Mr. Arthur Arnold. M.P., on "Fair Trade." 200,000 copies.
6.—"Bread Tax Once More." From Punch. 200,000 copies.
7.—"A Catechism for Fair Traders." By the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P. 300,000 copies.
8.—"Free Trade and the Working Men." By the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P. 250,000 copies.
9.—"Fair Trade and Free Trade." By Sir B. Samuelson, Bart., M.P. 250 000 copies.
10.—"Free Trade: What it does for England, and How it does it." By George W. Medley. 250,000 copies.
11.—"Facts for Artisans." By George W. Medley. 250,000 copies.
12.—Mr. Cobden on "Redistribution of Seats." 200,000 copies.
13.—"Protection in France." 200,000 copies.
14.—"Facts for Labourers." By George W. Medley. 300,000 copies.
15.—"The Farmers and Protection." By Charles Whitehead. 200,000 copies.
16.—"Facts for Farmers. No. 1.—Depression in Agriculture." By George W. Medley. 200,000 copies.
17.—"The Effects of Protection in America." By Sir William Bower Forwood. 200,000 oopies.
18.—"Would Protection remove the present Distress, and Benefit the Working Man?" By Joseph Arch. 300,000 copies.
19.—4"The Newcastle Weekl Chronicle on the Cobden Club Leaflets." 150,000 copies.
20.—"Memorial Verses on Richard Cobden, 1865." 150.000 copies.
21.—"Robbing a Thousand Peters to pay One Paul." By George Jacob Holyoake. 200,000 copies.
22.—"Less Free Trade or more: Which Shall it Be?" By J. Hampden Jackson. 200,000 copies.
23.—"Facts for Farmers. No. II.—Depression in Agriculture." By George W. Medley. 200,000 copies.
24.—"Fair Trade: its Impossibility." By Sydney Buxton, M.P. 100,000 copies.
25.—"Reciprocity Explained." By George Jacob Holyoake. 150,000 copies.
26.—"Words of "Warning to Agricultural Labourers and other Working Men." By Alfred Simmons, the Leader of the Kent and Sussex Labourers. 300,000 copies.
27.—"How they succeed in Canada." (From the Agricultural Gazette, January 5th, 1885.) 100,000 copies.
28.—"Free Trade and Fair Trade: What do the Words mean?" By James E. Thorold Rogers. 150,000 copies.
29.—"Free Trade v. Protection (alias 'Reciprocity,' alias 'Fair Trade."') By John Noble. 100,000 copies.
30.—"The British Peasant on the Right Hon. J. Lowther's Proposition—that ho should pay 'a farthing a week' on his Bread, to benefit the Landed Interest." 100,000 copies.page 9
31.—"The Farmer of Kent" (verses on Rent). 100,000 copies.
32.—"Will a Five Shilling Duty on Corn raise the Price of Bread or not?" By Edward North Buxton. 100,000 copies.
33.—"United States Protection v. British Free Trade." By the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P. 200,000 copies.
34.—The Right Hon. John Bright, M.P., on the "Safety of the Ballot." 200,000 copies.
35.—"The Secrecy of the Ballot." 50,000 copies.
36.—"Protection v. Work and Wages." By Edward North Buxton. 50,000 copies.
37.—"One Sided Free Trade." By Edward North Buxton. 50,000 copies.
Total number of leaflets from the date of the last general meeting (19th July, 1884): 6,750.000.
Various newspapers, &c., about 8,000.
"A Club Dinner was held, as before mentioned, on the 13th of June, at the Ship Hotel, Greenwich, the Bight Honourable Sir Charles W. Dilke, Bart., M.P., in the chair. There was a large attendance, including many foreign members and guests. Pull reports of the valuable and interesting speeches made upon that occasion are in course of circulation.
"The following honorary members have been elected since the last annual meeting:—Mr. James L. Cowles, U.S. America; Mr. Michael J. Dee, U.S. America; Señor J. J. Rodrigues de Preitas Portugal; M. Ernest van Elewyck, Belgium; M. Gustave Jottrand, Belgium; the Hon. George A. Lloyd, New South Wales; Mr. David Peters, Germany; Mr. Carl C. Pope, U.S. America; Mr. W. E. Robinson, Cape Town; Mr. J. B. Sargent, U.S. America; Mr. Alfred Simmons; Mr. Prank W. Taussig, Ph. D., U.S. America.
"Your Committee regret to have to report the following members and honorary members deceased:—Mr. W. Earl Dodge, U.S. America; Mr. C. Ross Poord; Mr. J. W. Garrett, U.S. America; Mr. Charles Gosnell; Mr. Richard Hawley, U.S. America; Mr. William Hickman; Mr. R.B. Mackie, M.P.; Mr. W. C. Mees, Holland; Lord O'Hagau, K.P.; Mr. Royal Phelps, U.S. America; Mr. C. E. Rawlins; and Mr. W. E. Robinson, Cape Town.
"The members of your Committee are nominated for re-election as follows:—Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, M.P., Mr. W. C. Borlase, M.P., Mr. W. E. Briggs, M.P., Mr. Jacob Bright, M.P., Hon. George C. Brodrick, Mr. Alexander H. Brown, M.P., Sir James Caird, K.C.B., Right Hon. Sir C. W. Dilke, Bart., M.P., Right Hon. M. E. Grant Duff, Mr. Richard C. Pisher, Mr. Herbert J. Gladstoue, M.P., Lord Houghton, Mr. James Howard, M.P., Mr. Alfred Illingworth, M.P., Mr. Walter Henry James, M.P., Mr. Henry Reader Lack, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Bart., M.P., Mr. E. A. Leatham, M.P., Sir John Lubbock, Bart., M.P., Mr. John Gordon Mc. Minnies, M.P., Right Hon. Sir Louis Mallet, C.B., Mr. A. C. Humphreys Owen, Mr. T. Bay ley Potter, M.P., Hon. Sec., Mr. J. W. Probyn, Hon. Treasurer, Professor J. E. Thorold Rogers, M.P., Mr.. Albert Rutson, Mr. Peter Rylands, M.P., Mr. William Summers, M.P., Mr. J. P. Thomasson, M.P., Mr. J. J. Tylor."
The Right Hon. W. E. Baxter said: I beg to move the adoption of the report which we have just heard read, and which sets forth so fully and clearly the work of the Club during the past year that it would be needless for me to go over the same ground. All Free Traders should be grateful to Mr. Potter and Mr. Probyn and the other gentlemen who have devoted so much time and attention to promote the spread of principles, which, despite the cavillers of the present day, are destined in the long run to be accepted by all nations. (Hear, hear.) You have no doubt observed that of late Jingoes and reactionaries, and certain newspaper writers who perhaps would repudiate either appellation, have been rather going out of their way to "damn with page 10 faint praise" the maxims and opinions of Mr. Cobden, and to sneer at the operations and publications of the Club which bears his name. If we were regarded by these gentlemen as merely well-meaning visionaries, upon whom they can look down from their "high empyrean" with a feeling of good natured contempt, surely it might occur to them that they are wasting time and throwing away powder and shot by devoting to us so much attention; but the fact, I believe to be, that the most shrewd amongst them feel that Free Trade views are slowly but surely taking a firmer grasp of the public mind, and that the truth, being great, must prevail. (Applause.) Those who had the honour of Mr. Cobden's personal acquaintance know how strongly he advocated household suffrage and one-member constituencies when such reforms were regarded only as the day-dreams of fanatical Radicals. We have lived to see them part of the British constitution, and some of us will live to see other changes—(hear, hear)—which Whigs and Tories alike now consider Utopian, adopted without disturbance and with great benefit to the country. (Hear, hear.) The name of the distinguished statesman in whoso honour this Club was founded is, however, more especially connected with three great questions. The first and foremost of these is Free Trade, and very shallow observers are those who fear that because foreign nations have not rapidly followed our example wo are on the wrong track and will have to retrace our steps. (Hear, hear.) Old systems and prejudices and vested interests do not so easily give way before a sound political economy, and it may require even more potent illustration than the collapse of Protection in Germany, France, and the United States, to convince all men, or even most men, that tariffs designed and calculated to enrich the few at the expense of the many are not likely to endure forever in the good providence of God. Those of our friends who are inclined to be despondent in this matter seem to me to have expected too much, and if they would have a little more faith and patience they will soon find greater indications of a good coming time. There are others who tell us that there is no occasion for the work of this Club, that Free Trade was established as the unalterable policy of Great Britain, and that it is beating the air to defend it now. They forget that a generation has arisen "which knew not Joseph"—("hear" and laughter)—unacquainted with the arguments, the battles, and the final triumph of the Anti-Corn Law League, and that the electors, especially the newly enfranchised, ought to be thoroughly indoctrinated in the wisdom of a commercial system which has added so enormously to the wealth of the country and the comfort of the working classes. Turning to the second great question which occupied Mr. Cobden's mind we all know what were his views about land, and what remarkable progress those views have lately made. When I entered the House of Commons thirty years ago all Tories, and most Whigs, were against any material alteration of the laws of Primogeniture, Entail, Settlement, Registration—in fact of that system which prevents land being bought and sold as readily as any other commodity, and which is utterly unsuitable to the circumstances of the present day. Now all that is changed. We have Lord Cairns's Settled Estates Act, passed almost without debate; the Scotch Entail Act, with scarcely any opposition, and the whole Feudal System is tumbling to pieces so fast, without anyone to say a good word for it, that I believe the first or second session of the new Parliament will see us within measureable distance of such a radical alteration in the law as will, in the words of Mr. Bright, "give to every present generation an absolute control over the soil." (Applause.) Next to the two great questions page 11 adverted to, Mr. Cobden said most in favour of International Arbitration as opposed to the barbarous and bloody arbitrament of war. How ho would have rejoiced to have witnessed the good effects on both sides of the Atlantic of the settlement of the Alabama difficulty, and how he would have hailed the arrangements lately made for referring a paltry dispute with Russia to a neutral power! (Applause.) Gentlemen, there will always bo moments when the wave of peaceful progress and economical reforms seems to stop in its advance if not to recede, but those who have firm faith in the motto of this Club need never doubt that in the end the fertilising stream will find its way to every quarter of the world. (Applause.)
The Right Hon. A. S. Ayrton, in seconding the adoption of the report, said there were one or two considerations he should like to bring before the meeting in reference to the methods by which they could advance the principles of the Club. In England they always discussed Free Trade from an English point of view, but, unfortunately, the more they discussed it from that standpoint the more they strengthened the idea of the peoples of other great nations of the world that it was not to their interest to promote Free Trade, and that although somehow or other it might suit us it was adverse to their own interests. One of the most able treatises on the subject from a foreign point of view was one written by a German, asserting that the advocacy of Free Trade in England was based on principles which were hostile to the development of the industries and commerce of Germany. In England we laboured under a difficulty—which did not in the least detract from the great honour due to Cobden's memory—that our treaty with France did in fact recognise what was called well-regulated Protection as regarded that country. The Emperor of the French at the time had the sagacity to see that well-regulated Protection, which would admit large imports of our commodities loaded with a certain amount of duty, would be an ingenious method of increasing his revenue, because apparently the process did not add to the taxation of the French people, but only a little to that of the English. Taking that view the Emperor thought ho had effected a master-stroke of international and fiscal policy. We in England could not help that; and wo had succeeded in knocking down something that was still more odious to us—the principle of a prohibitive tariff. This principle of well-regulated Protection was rapidly seized hold off by other foreign governments, for they saw what a capital thing it would be if they could, to a certain extent, tax English productions and add to their resources without appearing to tax their own subjects. It would bo unnecessary for him to enter into an elaborate argument to show that that idea was, as this meeting was well aware, a delusion. But he thought it would be of great service if the Club could induce foreign essayists to write in the language of their countries showing that this well-regulated Protection was not in reality a benefit to them, but in the long-run became injurious to their real and permanent interests. (Hear, hear.) It was only, for instance, by publications in the German language, written in a style which commended itself to the German people, that Germans could be persuaded that Free Trade would be much better for them than any schemes of well-regulated Protection which they could go on inventing. The same applied to France. The moment we adopted something considered to bo admirable for England it was regarded by Frenchmen as a cunning contrivance for injuring them. By addressing ourselves to the French mind in the French language, and with French ideas, converts might be made. This was a suggestion which might bo worthy the attention of their Chairman, Mr. Potter. He would pass to page 12 another matter mentioned in the report, viz., the advocacy of Cobden's principles in regard to Free Trade in land. It was a very curious fact, and possibly no gentleman in that room was aware of it, that those people who were regarded as being generally unacquainted with the principles of law and jurisprudence, the Mahomedans, laid it down as a fundamental principle of their law that no man should make a transfer of landed property and at the same time impose upon it any restrictions as to the control over that property. The gift had to be absolute, and if any restrictions were imposed they became void, and the person who received the property was entirely freed from those restrictions. This principle was very simple in its enunciation, and comprehensive in its practice. It had this effect: a man was either an owner or he was not an owner. (Hear, hear.) He was never partially an owner, with a part interest, and the consequence was immense simplicity in the law. A man produced his transfer of land, and there was a complete transfer, without any conditions annexed; if he wanted to dispose of it he must dispense with it altogether. We should profit from wisdom wherever we found it, whether it came from Mahomedans or from anybody else. It was evidently a rule of law originally founded when there began to be regular written laws. This fundamental doctrine existed in the most primitive days of law of which we knew anything in this country, when the giving of a twig in the name of a whole farm constituted an act of transfer. The whole operation of transfer, or, as it was called, "seisin," consisted of a manual act in the presence of witnesses, and all that was done was to record the act. Afterwards came all sorts of complications, fostered in this country by the Court of Chancery, the object of which body was to get everything they could into Chancery, to keep it there as long as they could, and to make all proceedings as costly as they could. From the Chancellor downwards the lawyers got all they could out of the system, until the climax was reached by Lord Eldon, when fortunately Brougham came, whose broom swept the grosser abuses away. (Laughter and "hear, hear.") But although some of the enormities surrounding the court were swept away, there still existed great anomalies connected with the land system, and it would be a benefit if they could achieve something of the simplicity enjoyed by the Mahomedans. This question had the deepest relation to the permanent interests of the country. (Cheers.) There should be less of law. The complicated alterations made by Lord Cairns were a perfect mockery, for it was more difficult than ever now to prepare a deed relating to land. The whole base of the difficulty remained unchanged. Transfer of land ought to be complete and absolute, for if a man could not keep his property he should get rid of it absolutely to somebody else. If he died let him appoint an absolute heir, not an owner surrounded by all kinds of complications and conditions. This would not only effect a very needful reform in the land laws, it would improve the morality of the land and property owning classes of the country. The law unfortunately at present was such that a man who had neglected the training of his son, so that he became unfit for the inheritance of accumulated property, could yet so manage the property by legal documents that practically it would go in and remain in the possession of a person wholly unfit for it. If a son was not fit for the inheritance the property ought to pass to some other relation. Most people knew, within their own social circles, how many cases there were of persons receiving property without their own exertions, and who had never acquired 5s. by any effort of their own. The whole system was eminently unsatisfactory, and page 13 became in the end subversive of the real rights of property. Unfortunately some of the most distinguished men in law benefitted most by the complications and anomalies that existed. He hoped the matter would be seriously dealt with in the next Parliament. (Cheers.)
Mr. "Walter Wren congratulated the Club on having of late broadened the scope of their propagandism. He noted with satisfaction that more than ever was being done by the Club in spreading Cobden's political as well as his economical teachings. Besides Pree Trade in Land, which Mr. Ayrton had so ably referred to, Cobden was an advocate of the system of tenant right. Tenant right would be a cure for two of the most crying evils that existed—agricultural depression, and the horrible way the poor were housed. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. G. W. Medley thought it would be interesting if he were to quote some passages in that week's Economist, showing that Protection was not doing very happy things for those who maintained the system on the Continent. (Hear, hear.) The first paragraph related to Protection in Belgium as follows: "A Committee of the Belgium Chamber of Deputies has recently voted a resolution in favour of a Parliamentary inquiry into the condition of industry and agriculture in Belgium. It is urged that the Protectionist policy now in force in France and Germany has affected prejudicially Belgian industry, which is suffering from depression resulting in the lowering of prices and in reduction of wages. At the same time the value of land has decreased, owing to the fall in the value of agricultural produce and the large amount of foreign produce imported, which has increased 45 per cent, in the last five years. The committee did not adopt either proposals for a corn duty or for measures to equalise charges on different classes of property, but recom-mended a Parliamentary inquiry into the whole subject." This was certainly satisfactory, for the more they inquired in Belgium the more they would be likely to find out the cause of what was taking place. A correspondent at Vienna stated: "The trade inspector of Moravia and Silesia has just published an account which throws a curious light upon the conditions under which the workmen must live in these provinces, especially at Brunn. The working time in the weaving and spinning mills, which was fixed at 12½ hours before the new Act was issued, was sometimes prolonged to 16 and even 18 hours. In many manufactories workmen remain the whole week in the factory, sleeping on wool sacks, and working 96 hours from Monday morning until Saturday morning. The weekly wages fluctuate between 4 and 8 florins for men, and 1.20 and 4 florins for women; the wages by job between 7 to 18 florins for men, and 3 to 6.80 florins for women. The wages in the ready-made clothing manufactories are a little higher, amounting to about 11 florins for men by job. These low-wages barely keep the working people in lodgings and dry bread. The report complains further of the complete want of working men's houses at Brunn, so that the workmen are forced to pass the night in the factory because other lodgings are both bad and dear. Only a few of the employers have established special sleeping places." And further on the Economist said: "The raising of the import duty on corn in Germany has already resulted in an advance in the price of bread in comparison with other countries. The report of the Chamber of Commerce at Zittau also complains that German corn mills are suffering considerably, and that German wheat is not of the same quality as that of Austro-Hungary and Russia, to the use of which many German millers are habituated. Brewers complain that German barley is not so good as Austrian." page 14 When one read accounts of this kind the only question that arose was how long could such a state of things last? (Hear, hear.)
Mr. A. G. Henriques observed, in reply to Mr. Ayrton's references to the attitude of lawyers towards land law reform, that two of his acquaintances, Mr. Horace Davey and Mr. Osborne Morgan—both members of Parliament and great lawyers—had been very energetic in the cause of improving the land laws. There were many distinguished lawyers who were ready to cooperate with the public in carrying out land law reform. He took this opportunity of congratulating the Club upon the good work they had done in circulating Mr. Kay's excellent book on land law reform. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Ayrton reminded the last speaker that his (Mr. Ayrton's) contention was that the attitude adopted by most lawyers towards land reform was due to the circumstances under which they were brought up in their profession. Lord Brougham was the most distinguished exception, and he was universally hated in his lifetime by the lawyers. (Laughter and cheers.) "Exceptio probat regulam." (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J. W. Probyn (Hon. Treasurer to the Club) said he was sure the meeting would be glad to hear that the Committee had not lost sight of the condition of the Crown Colonies. They were aware that abundant opportunity was afforded of endeavouring to induce the British Government to adopt Cobden's principles with respect to the Crown Colonies. This matter had been by no means lost sight of by the Committee of the Club. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. W. Martin "Wood said there still existed one great blot on the Free Trade escutcheon, and that was the continued imposition of an enormous duty upon silver and gold plate. The Club had rejoiced over the great fiscal reforms which had been carried out with regard to our trade with India, but there still existed this absolutely prohibitive duty upon silver plate, which operated very prejudicially upon what might be a very important industry in India. With regard to the antiquated "Hall-mark"—that was a matter with which the Committee of this Club could have no sympathy whatever. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Thomas Bayley Potter, M.P., said, in reply to Mr. Ayrton's remarks in reference to the international work of the Club, that every effort had been made to enlist volunteers in the cause, and the Committee had been very glad to circulate the information they had. In many cases they had republished, in English, information which they had got from abroad, but during the last few years there had been a little jealousy exhibited on the part of foreigners on the subject. The Club had in some instances been almost told that they had better mind their own business, and they had, in consequence, not forced their publications promiscuously on foreigners, but had communicated more especially with their own foreign members. When the Club was asked for publications they sent them. In international work the Club had not been doing quite so much of late for the very reason that they thought they were not doing so much good as they had previously done in this respect. As regarded silver plate, there seemed to be no difficulty two or three years ago in taking off that duty, but a difficulty was found in valuing the amount which the silversmiths had in hand, and the drawback was so tremendous that they could not get over it. It was a question, he thought, more for the silversmiths than for the Government, for there was a perfect willingness on the part of the Legislature to act in the matter.page 15
The motion for the adoption of the report was then agreed to, and, on the motion of Mr. T. W. Evans, M.P., seconded by Mr. E. J. Wathbrston, the Committee of the Club was re-elected for the ensuing year.
Mr. Ayrton desired to move a vote of thanks to their chairman, Mr. Potter, who had so ably presided over the affairs of the Association. (Hear, hear.) He would explain that the object of his remarks on the international work of the Club was to point out the desirability of enlisting volunteers among foreigners, who would write original papers in their own language, through the channel of foreign ideas. Foreigners who showed a tendency to disbelieve what was written and said by this Club would be more likely to listen to men who were recognised in their own countries as working for the benefit of their fellow-citizens, and not for that of Englishmen.
The vote of thanks having been enthusiastically carried,
Mr. Potter, in acknowledging the vote, said he was very much indebted to this meeting, and to all the members of the Club, for the support he had always received. He naturally felt a great interest in the Club, and all that he felt capable of doing he did. He intended carrying on the work of the Club as long as he was able, but as he was getting an old man he was beginning to anxiously look out for some younger man, an earnest and zealous worker, who would take his place when he should be able to work for the Club no longer. The Club could be very useful, not merely now but for many years to come, and he trusted to find some younger men who would take as much interest in the cause, and servo it as zealously, as he had done. (Cheers.)
The proceedings then terminated.