He has dedicated himself to his work of convincing this kingdom of the impolicy of corn-laws, lectured in every town where they would hear him, and at last carried his point against immense odds, and yet has never accepted any compromise or stipulation from the government. He might have been in the ministry. He will never go there except with empire for his principle, which cannot yet be awarded. He had neglected and abandoned his prosperous calico printing to his partners. And the triumphant League have subscribed between sixty and eighty thousand pounds as the Cobden Fund, whereby he is made independent.
It was quite beautiful, even sublime, last night, to notice the moral radiations which this Free Trade dogma seemed to throw out, all unlooked for, to the great audience, who instantly and delightedly adopted them. Such contrasts of sentiment to the vulgar hatred and fear of France and jealousy of America that pervade the newspapers! Cobden himself looked thoughtful and surprised, as if he saw a new future. Old Colonel Perronet Thompson — the Father of Free Trade, whose catechism on the corn-laws set all these Brights and Cobdens first on cracking this nut — was present, and spoke in a very vigorous, rasp-like tone. [Mimer] Gibson, a member of the British government, a great Suffolk squire, and a convert to these opinions, made a very satisfactory speech; and our old abolition friend, George Thompson, brought up the rear, though he, whom I now heard for the first time, is merely a piece of rhetoric, and not a man of facts and figures and English solidity, like the rest. The audience play no inactive part, but the most acute and sympathizing, and the agreeable result was the demonstration of the arithmetical as well as the moral optimism of peace and generosity. Forgive, forgive this most impertinent scribble.
Your friend, R. W. E. Never did a letter require less apology than this. Its picture of Cobden and his environment is masterly. Perronet Thompson lived to see our civil war result in the emancipation of our slaves (be had been governor of Sierra Leone, a station in Africa to check the slave trade), and he wrote me in 1863, promising, if I would send him the music of the John Brown song, to set half a million English voices singing it, which I fancy he did.
In the next letter, “Frank” is the son of Mrs. Brown, and the older cousin of Edward Emerson.
VIII. THOREAU TO EMERSON IN ENGLAND.
CONCORD, February 23, 1848.
DEAR WALDO, — For I think I have heard that that is your name, — my letter which was put last into the leathern bag arrived first. Whatever I may call you, I know you better than I know your name, and what becomes of the fittest name if in any sense you are here with him who calls, and not there simply to be called?
I believe I never thanked you for your lectures, one and all, which I heard formerly read here in Concord. I know I never have. There was some excellent reason each time why I did not; but it will never be too late. I have had that advantage, at least, over you in my education.
Lidian is too unwell to write to you, and so I must tell you what I can about the children and herself. I am afraid she has not told you how unwell she is, or to-day perhaps we may say, has been. She has been confined to her chamber four or five weeks, and three or four weeks, at least, to her bed, with the jaundice. The doctor, who comes once a day, does not let her read (nor can she now) nor hear much reading.