Copyright
David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

. (page 11 of 39)
Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 11 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


demand of an increasing population.

I believe that if you abolish the Com Law honestly, and
adopt Free Trade in its simplicity, there will not be a tariff in
Europe that will not be changed in less than five years to follow
your example. Well, gentlemen, suppose the Corn Law be not
abolished immediately, but that Sir Robert Peel bring in a meas-
ure giving you a duty of five shillings, six shillings, or seven
shillings, and going down one shilling a year for four or five
years, till the whole duty is abolished, what would be the effect
on foreign countries ? They will then exaggerate the importance
of this market when the duty is wholly off. They will go on
raising supplies, calculating that, when the duty is wholly off,
they will have a market for their produce, and high prices to re-
munerate them; and if, as is very likely and consistent with our
experience, we should have a return to abundant seasons, these
vast importations will be poured upon our markets, probably just
at the time when our prices are low; and they would come here,
because they would have no other market, to swamp our mar-
kets, and deprive the farmer of the sale of his produce at a re-
munerating price. But, on the contrary, let the Corn Law be
abolished instantly; let foreigners see what the English market
is in its natural state, and then they will be able to judge from
year to year and from season to season what will be the future
demand from this country for foreign corn. There will be no
extravagant estimate of what we want — no contingency of bad
harvests to speculate upon. The supply will be regulated by the
demand, and will reach that state which will be the best security
against both gluts and famine. Therefore, for the farmer's sake,



RICHARD COBDEN UI

I plead for the immediate abolition of this law. A farmer never
can have a fair and equitable understanding or adjustment with
his landlord, whether as respects rent, tenure, or game, until
this law is wholly removed out of his way. Let the repeal be
gradual, and the landlord will say to the farmer, through the
land-agent, ^^ Oh, the duty will be seven shillings next year; you
have not had more than twelve-months' experience of the work-
ings of the system yet ^* ; and the farmer goes away without any
settlement having been come to. Another year passes over, and
when the farmer presents himself, he is told, ^^ Oh, the duty will
be five shillings this year; I cannot yet tell what the effect will
be; you must stop awhile.*^ The next year the same thing is
repeated, and the end is, that there is no adjustment of any kind
between the landlord and tenant. But put it at once on a natu-
ral footing, abolish all restrictions, and the landlord and tenant
will be brought to a prompt settlement; they will be placed pre-
cisely on the same footing as you are in your manufactures.

Well, I have now spoken on what may be done. I have told
you, too, what I should advocate; but I must say, that whatever
is proposed by Sir Robert Peel, we, as Free Traders, have but
one course to pursue. If he propose a total and immediate and
unconditional repeal, we shall throw up our caps for Sir Robert
Peel. If he propose anything else, then Mr. Villiers will be
ready, as he has been on former occasions, to move his amend-
ment for a total and immediate repeal of the Corn Laws. We
are not responsible for what ministers may do; we are but re-
sponsible for the performance of our duty. We don't offer to do
impossibilities; but we will do our utmost to carry out our prin-
ciples. But, gentlemen, I tell you honestly, I think less of what
this Parliament may do — I care less for their opinions, less for
the intentions of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, than what
may be the opinion of a meeting like this and of the people out
of doors. This question will not be carried by ministers or by
the present Parliament; it will be carried, when it is carried,
by the will of the nation. We will do nothing that can remove
us a hair's breadth from the rock which we have stood upon
with so much safety for the last seven years. All other parties
have been on a quicksand, and floated about by every wave, by
every tide, and by every wind — some floating to us; others, like
fragments scattered over the ocean, without rudder or comoass:
whilst we are upon solid ground, and no temptation, whether of



JI2 RICHARD COBDEN

parties or of ministers, shall ever make us swerve a hair's
breadth. I am anxious to hear now, at the last meeting before
we go to Parliament — before we enter that arena to which all
men's minds will be turned during the next week — I am anx-
ious, not merely that we should all of us understand each other
on this question, but that we should be considered as occupying
as independent and isolated a position as we did at the first mo-
ment of the formation of this League. We have nothing to do
with Whigs or Tories; we are stronger than either of them; if
we stick to our principles, we can, if necessary, beat both. And
I hope we perfectly understand now, that we have not, in the
advocacy of this great question, a single object in view but that
which we have honestly avowed from the beginning. Our op-
ponents may charge us with designs to do other things. No,
gentlemen, I have never encouraged that. Some of my friends
have said, "When this work is done you will have some influ-
ence in the country; you must do so and so." I said then, as I
say now, " Every new political principle must have its special ad-
vocates, just as every new faith has its martyrs." It is a mistake
to suppose that this organization can be turned to other pur-
poses. It is a mistake to suppose that men, prominent in the
advocacy of the principle of Free Trade, can with the same force
and effect identify themselves with any other principle hereafter.
It will be enough if the League accomplish the triumph of the
principle we have before us. I have never taken a limited view
of the object or scope of this great principle. I have never ad-
vocated this question very much as a trader.

But I have been accused of looking too m.uch to material in-
terests. Nevertheless, I can say that I have taken as large and
great a view of the effects of this mighty principle as ever did
any man who dreamt over it in his own study. I believe that
the physical gain will be the smallest gain to humanity from the
success of this principle. I look farther; I see in the Free Trade
principle that which shall act on the moral world as the prin-
ciple of gravitation in the universe, — drawing men together,
thrusting aside the antagonism of race and creed and language,
and uniting us in the bonds of eternal peace. I have looked
even farther. I have speculated, and probably dreamt, in the
dim future — aye, a thousand years hence — I have speculated on
what the effect of the triumph of this principle may be. I be-
lieve that the effect will be to change the face of the world, so



RICHARD COBDEN ^^^

as to introduce a system of g-overnment entirely distinct from
that which now prevails. I believe that the desire and the mot-
ive for large and mighty empires — for gigantic armies and gieat
navies — for those materials which are used for the destruction
of life and the desolation of the rewards of labor — will die
away; I believe that such things will cease to be necessary, or
to be used, when man becomes one family and freely exchanges
the fruits of his labor with his brother man. I believe that, if
we could be allowed to reappear on this sublunary scene, we
should see, at a far distant period, the governing system of this
world revert to something like the municipal system; and I be-
lieve that the speculative philosopher of a thousand years hence
will date the greatest revolution that ever happened in the
world's history from the triumph of the principle which we have
met here to advocate. I believe these things; but, whatever
may have been my dreams and speculations, 1 have never ob-
truded them upon others. I have never acted upon personal or
interested motives in this question; I seek no alliance with par-
ties or favor from parties, and I will take none — but, having
the feeling I have of the sacredness of the principle, I say that
I can never agree to tamper with it. I, at least, will never be
suspected of doing otherwise than pursuing it disinterestedly,
honestly, and resolutely.



SMALL STATES AND GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS
(From a Speech Delivered at Rochdale, October 29th. 1862)

Now, gentlemen, coupled with this question is another upon
which I must say a few words. We are placed in this
tremendous embarrassment in consequence of the civil war
that is going on in America. Don't expect me to be going to
venture upon ground which other politicians have trodden, with,
I think, doubtful success or advantage to themselves! Don't
think that I am going to predict what is going to happen in
America, or that I am going to set myself up as a judge of the
Americans! What I wish to do is to say a few words to throw
light upon our relations as a nation with the American people.
I have no doubt whatever that, if I had been an American, I
should have been true to my peace principfes, and that I should
lave been amongst, perhaps, a very small number who had

4-8



jj. RICHARD COBDEN

voted against, or raised my protest, in some shape or other,
against this civil war in America. There is nothing in the
course of this war that reconciles me to the brutality and havoc
of such a mode of settling human disputes. But the question we
have to ask ourselves is this: What is the position which, as a
nation, we ought to take with reference to the Americans in this
dispute ? That is the question which concerns us. It is no use
our arguing as to what is the origin of the war, or any use what-
ever to advise these disputants. From the moment the first shot
is fired, or the first blow is struck, in a dispute, then farewell to
all reason and argument; you might as well attempt to reason
with mad dogs as with men when they have begun to spill each
other's blood in mortal combat. I was so convinced of the fact
during the Crimean War, — which you know I opposed, — I was
so convinced of the utter uselessness of raising one's voice in
opposition to war when it has once begun, that I made up my
mind that as long as I was in political life, should a war again
break out between England and a great power, I would never
open my mouth upon the subject from the time the first gun
was fired until the peace was made, because, when a war is
once commenced it will only be by the exhaustion of one party
that a termination will be arrived at. If you look back at our
history, what did eloquence, in the persons of Chatham or Burke,
do to prevent a war with our first American colonies ? What did
eloquence, in the persons of Fox and his friends, do to prevent
the French Revolution or bring it to a close ? And there was a
man who at the commencement of the Crimean War, protested
in terms of eloquence, in power and pathos and argument equal
— in terms, I believe, fit to compare with anything that fell from
the lips of Chatham and Burke — I mean your distinguished
townsman, my friend Mr. Bright — and what was his success?
Why, they burnt him in effigy for his pains!

Well, if we are here powerless as politicians to check a war at
home, how useless and unavailing must it be for me to presume
to affect in the slightest degree the results of the contest in
America! I may say I regret this dreadful and sanguinary war;
we all regret it; but to attempt to scold them for fighting, to
attempt to argue the case with either, and to reach them with
any arguments, while they are standing in mortal combat, a mil-
lion of them standing in arms and fighting to the death; to
think that, by any arguments here, we are to influence or be



RICHARD COBDEti jj«

heard by the combatants engaged on the other side of the At-
lantic, is utterly vain. I have traveled twice through almost
every free State in America. I know most of the principals en-
gaged in this dreadful contest on both sides. I have kept my-
self pretty well informed of all that is going on in that country;
and yet, though I think I ought to be as well informed on this
subject as most of my countrymen, — Cabinet ministers included,
— yet, if you were to ask me how this contest is to end, I con-
fess I should find myself totally at a loss to offer an opinion
worth the slightest attention on the part of my hearers. But
this I will say: If I were put to the torture, and compelled to
offer a guess, I should not make the guess which Mr. Gladstone
and Earl Russell have made on this subject. I don't believe
that if the war in America is to be brought to a termination, it
will be brought to an end by the separation of the North and
South. There are great motives at work amongst the large ma-
jority of the people in America, which seem to me to drive
them to this dreadful contest rather than see their country
broken in two. Now, I don't speak of it as having a great in-
terest in it myself. I speak as to a fact. It may seem Utopian;
but I don't feel sympathy for a great nation, or for those who
desire the greatness of a people by the vast extension of empire.
What I like to see is the growth, development, and elevation of
the individual man. But we have had great empires at all
times — Syria, Persia, and the rest. What trace have they left
of the individual man ? Nebuchadnezzar, and the countless mil-
lions under his sway, — there is no more trace of them than of
hei;ds of buffaloes, or flocks of sheep. But look at your little
States; look at Greece, with its small territories, some not larger
than an English county! Italy, over some of whose States a man
on horseback could ride in a day, — they have left traces of indi-
vidual man, where civilization has flourished, and humanity has
been elevated. It may appear Utopian, but we can never expect
the individual elevated until a practical and better code of moral
law prevails among nations, and until the small States obtain
justice at the hands of the great.




WILLIAM BOURKE COCKRAN

(1854- )

|he speech delivered by William Bourke Cockran at Madison
Square Garden, New York, August i8th, 1896, represented
the strong antagonism of a highly intelligent and powerful
class in the United States to the speech made by William J. Bryan in
the Democratic National Convention of 1896, commonly called his
"Cross of Gold" oration. Mr. Bryan's speech was largely, if not wholly,
extemporaneous. Mr. Cockran had time to consider his reply care-
fully, and doubtless did so ; but there was none of the stiffness of a set
speech in its delivery. It was received with applause and extensively
circulated.



ANSWERING WILLIAM J. BRYAN

(From the Speech at Madison Square Garden, New York City,

August i8th, 1896)

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, Pello-di-Democrats, All: —

WITH the inspiring strains of the national song still ringing
in our ears, who can doubt the issue of this campaign?
The issue has been well stated by your presiding officer.
Stripped, as he says, of all verbal disguises, it is an issue of com-
mon honesty, an issue between the honest discharge and the
dishonest repudiation of public and private obligations. It is a
question as to whether the powers of the Government shall be
used to protect honest industry or to tempt the citizen to dis-
honesty.

On this question honest men cannot differ. It is one of
morals and justice. It involves the existence of social order. It
is the contest for civilization itself. If it be disheartening to
Democrats and to lovers of free institutions to find an issue of this
character projecting into a presidential campaign, this meeting

furnishes us with an inspiring truth of how that issue will be met

116



WILLIAM BOURKE COCKRAN



117



by the people. A Democratic convention may renounce the Dem-
ocratic faith, but the Democracy remains faithful to the Demo-
cratic principles. Democratic leaders may betray a convention
to the Populists, but they cannot seduce the footsteps of Demo-
cratic voters from the pathway of honor and justice. A candi-
date bearing the mandate of a Democratic convention may in
this hall open a canvass leveled against the foundations of social
order, but he beholds the Democratic masses confronting him
organized for defense.

Fellow-Democrats, let us not disguise from ourselves the fact
that we bear in this contest a serious and grave and solemn
burden of duty. We must raise our hands against the nominee
of our party, and we must do it to preserve the future of that
party itself. We must oppose the nominee of the Chicago con-
vention, and we know full well that the success of our opposi-
tion will mean our own exclusion from public life, but we will be
consoled and gratified by the reflection that it will prove that
the American people cannot be divided into parties on a question
of simple morals or of common honesty. We would look in vain
through the speech delivered here one week ago to find a true
statement of the issue involved in this canvass. Indeed, I be-
lieve it is doubtful if the candidate himself quite understands
the nature of the faith which he professes. I say this not in
criticism of his ability but in justice to his morality. I believe
that if he himself understood the inevitable consequences of the
doctrines he preaches, his own hands would be the very first to
tear down the platform on which he stands. But there was one
statement in that speech which was very free from ambiguity,
pregnant with hope and confidence to the lovers of order. He
professes his unquestioned belief in the honesty of the Ameri-
can masses, and he quoted Abraham Lincoln in support of the
faith that was in him. Well I don't believe that the faith of
Abraham Lincoln was ever more significantly iustified than in
the appearance which Mr. Bryan presented upon this platform
in the change that has come over the spirit and the tone of
Populistic eloquence since the Chicago convention.

We must all remember that lurid rhetoric which glowed as
fiercely in the Western skies as that sunlight which through the
past week foretold the torrid heat of the ensuing day; and here
upon this platform, we find that same rhetoric as mild, as insipid
as the waters of a stagnant pool.



ii8



WILLIAM BOURKE COCKRAN



He is a candidate who was swept into the nomination by a
wave of popular enthusiasm, awakened by appeals to prejudice
and greed. He is a candidate who on his trip home, and in the
initial steps of his trip eastward, declared that this was a revolu-
tionary movement; who no sooner found himself face to face
with the American feeling than he realized the fact that this soil
is not propitious to revolution.

The people of this country will not change the institutions
which have stood the tests and experiences of a century for
institutions based upon the fantastic dreams of Populist agi-
tators.

The American nation will never consent to substitute for the
Republic of Washington, of Jefferson, and of Jackson the Repub-
lic of an Altgeld, a Tillman, or a Bryan. The power of public
opinion which caused the vivid oratory of the Chicago platform
to burn low and soft as the moonlight outside of this platform,
which has already shown its power to control Populistic eloquence,
will show the full extent of its wisdom, will give Abraham Lin-
coln's prophecy its triumphal vindication, when it crushes the seed
of Populistic Socialism next November.




SIR EDWARD COKE

(1 552-1634)

!he most celebrated of Sir Edward Coke's speeches, that in
which he prosecuted Sir Walter Raleigh for treason, is
grossly unjust to Raleigh, but it does equal violence to the
true character of Coke himself. The speech shows a man insolent
with the sense of authority, violent in his methods, and despotic in
his habits of thotight, while Coke, though in the case of Raleigh as
in others he may have exceeded the brutality which seems to have
been expected of a prosecuting attorney in his day, was essentially
a Liberal in his construction of law and was so fearless in defending
the common law of England and the liberties of the people against
royal usurpation, that under Charles I. he was first imprisoned and
then ordered into confinement at his house at Stoke Poges, ^Hhere to
remain during his Majesty's pleasure.'^ It has been said of Coke that
he best represents among English lawyers that view of the common
law which not only resulted in the resistance of the Commons to the
Crown in England, but in the American Revolution against both
Crown and Parliament. Such men as Samuel Adams and Jefferson
are thought to have been largely indebted to Coke for views which
did much to shape American institutions; and he is frequently put in
antithesis to Blackstone as a representative of the liberal impulses of
the common law.

Coke was born at Mileham, Norfolk, February ist, 1552. He was
Speaker of the House of Commons, 1592-93; Attorney-General, 1593-
94; Chief-Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, 1606; and Chief-
Justice of the King's Bench, 161 3. As Chief-Justice of the King's
Bench he fearlessly defended the common law against royal attempts
to override it, and he was consequently removed November 15th-
161 6. Elected to Parliament in 1620, he worked with Pym and Sir
Robert Philips in favor of free speech, and was imprisoned with them
in consequence. After his release he was one of those who drew
up the Petition of Right. He died September 3d, 1634. His speech
against Raleigh and his brutal diplomacy in forcing on his young
daughter Frances a purely political marriage with Sir John Villiers
are blots upon his reputation, but he is justly ranked as one of the
greatest men of England and one of the greatest lawyers of modern
times.

119



120. SIR EDWARD COKE



PROSECUTING SIR WALTER RALEIGH

(Delivered at the Trial of Sir Walter Raleigh for High Treason at Win-
chester, November 17th, 1603, Coke Being Then the King's Attorney-
General)

f MUST first, my lords, before I come to the cause, give one
I caution, because we shall often mention persons of eminent
places, some of them great monarchs; whatever we say of
them we shall but repeat what others have said of them, — I
mean the capital offenders in their confession. We professing
law must speak reverently of kings and potentates. I perceive
these honorable lords and the rest of this great assembly are
come to hear what hath been scattered upon the wrack of report.
We carry a just mind to condemn no man but upon plain evi-
dence. Here is mischief, mischief in summo gradu, exorbitant
mischief. My speech shall chiefly touch these three points: imi-
tation, supportation, and defense. The imitation of evil ever
exceeds the precedent; as, on the contrary, imitation of good ever
comes short. Mischief cannot be supported but by mischief;
yea, it will so multiply that it will bring all to confusion. Mis-
chief is ever underpropped by falsehood or foul practices; and
because all these things did occur in this treason, you shall un-
derstand the main, as before you did the bye. The treason
of the bye consisteth in these points: first that the Lords Grey,
Brook, Markham, and the rest, intended by force in the night to
surprise the King's Court; which was a rebellion in the heart of
the realm, yea, in the heart of the heart, in the Court. They
intended to take him that is a sovereign to make him subject to
their power, purposing to open the doors with muskets and
cavaliers, and to take also the Prince and the Council; then un-
der the King's authority to carry the King to the Tower, and to
make a stale of the admiral. When they had the King there
to extort three things from him: First, a pardon for all their
treasons; second, a toleration of the Roman superstition, which
their eyes shall sooner fall out than they shall ever see, — for the
King hath spoken these words in the hearing of many: *I will
lose the crown and my life before ever I will alter religion.*^
And third, to remove counselors. In the room of the Lord
Chancellor they would have placed one Watson, a priest, absurd
in humanity and ignorant in divinity. Brook, of whom I will



SIR EDWARD COKE I2i

speak nothing, was to be Lord Treasurer. The great Secretary
must be Markham, ocjilus patrice. A hole must be found in my
Lord Chief-Justice's coat. Grey must be Earl-Marshal, and Mas-
ter of the Horse, because he would have a table in the Court;
marry, he would advance the Earl of Worcester to a higher



Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 11 of 39)