Cobden, Richard (1804-1865)

Richard Cobden, apostle of Free Trade, was the relentless crusader for the repeal of the Corn Law – a protectionist device which, he said, “took from the poorest of the poor to add to the richest of the rich”.

In their battles for the “under dog” against the “top dogs”, he and O’Connell found themselves brothers in arms, joined in fierce hostility to Peel, the conservative pillar of the ruling classes.

Sir Robert Peel was a keyman in the Tory government of 1828.

By the next year, however, the threat of civil war had generated enough steam to blow through his traditional opposition to Catholicism, and he put through a Bill for Catholic Emancipation.

Protestant Oxford saw to it that he had lost his seat.

Corn law
Back in 1843 as Prime Minister, convinced at last by Cobden’s arguments, he repealed the Corn Law.

He fell from power immediately, and never regained it. Denounced as twice traitor to his party, he replied that he preferred the general interests of the community to those of party.

The Irish certainly gave North Melbourne something to live up to when they hoisted their green banner at its front door.(1)

Cobden Street North Melbourne was named in honour of Richard Cobden.


(1) Northern Advertiser,

(2) drawing from Mises Institute photographic archive