Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 February 2009
Much has been written about the history of the Cobden-Chevalier treaty, partly because of the eminence of the persons involved in its negotiations and partly because of its significance in Anglo-French relations. By far the most detailed and up-to-date account is that of A. L. Dunham. Besides this valuable contribution to the history of the treaty, accounts of it can be found in nearly all the biographies and personal reminiscences of British statesmen of that period. In addition a large number of articles and monographs have been devoted to it on both sides of the Channel. All these accounts usually contain three main points concerning the origin of the treaty. The first of these is that by the close of 1859 the state of Britain's finances offered yet another opportunity for a major reform of the tariff, and that no one was more conscious of this opportunity than Gladstone, then the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was particularly concerned about annuities worth £2 million, due to mature the following year, and was determined that this large sum of money should not‘ pass into the great gulf of expenditure there to be swallowed up ’. He informed Richard Cobden that if under the favourable financial circumstances nothing was done for ‘trade and die masses, it would be a great discredit and a great calamity ’.2 Secondly, that while Gladstone was resolved that the large sum at his disposal should not be wasted, the enthusiasm of persons who had no official position, particularly Cobden and Michel Chevalier, directed his attention to the possibility of using that amount to further Anglo-French commercial relations.
4 B.T. 3/22, 18 June 1831. Brown, L., The Board of Trade and The Free Trade Movement, 1830–1842 (London, 1958), p. 116.Google Scholar
6 Hansard, 3rd ser., CLV, 213.Google Scholar Bright denied that he had a treaty of commerce in mind when he made his suggestion.
7 Annual Report of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 1851. Redford, A., Manchester Merchants and Foreign Trade, 1850–1939 (Liverpool, 1946), pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
8 The strong demonstrations in favour of non-intervention which occurred in Britain at the outbreak of hostilities have been attributed to this part of Napoleon's strategy. The Hungarian patriot, Kossuth, claimed that he had been specifically entrusted with this part of the strategy and that his campaign on behalf of non-intervention was highly successful. See Urban, M. B., British Opinion and Policy in the Unification of Italy, 1856–1861 (Scottdale, Pa., 1938), pp. 206–8.Google Scholar
9 The Russian neutrality was secured by a treaty; see Sumner, B. H., ‘The Secret Franco-Russian Treaty of 3 March, 1859’, English Historical Review, LXVIII, 187 (01 1933), 65–83.Google Scholar
13 Cobden, to Gladstone, , private, 11 Nov. 1859.Google Scholar Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, fos. 44–5.
18 Russell to Gladstone, private, 15 Oct. 1859. Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,291, fo. 261.
21 Cobden, to Gladstone, , private, 29 Oct. 1859.Google Scholar Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, fo. 37.
22 The French free traders realized that this undertaking was a great set-back to their cause since the French manufacturers could always show that their industries required protection. It was for this reason that Chevalier came to the conclusion, which he repeatedly urged upon Cobden, that if the free trade movement was to succeed in France, Great Britain would have to abandon her theoretical objections to treaties of commerce and sign one with France. He pointed out that this could be easily done because Napoleon was constitutionally invested with the power of concluding treaties of com merce without consulting either his subjects or their representatives in the Corps Legislalif.
24 Cobden, to Russell, , 16 Dec. 1859.Google Scholar F.O. 27/1305. Cobden too concluded that the Emperor's argument in favour of protection disclosed ‘a secret instinct for a policy of war and isolation’. See his diary, Add. MS 43,675 A, 12 Dec. 1859.
29 Palmerston to Persigny, private, 4 Dec. 1859. Wellesley, F. A., The Paris Embassy During the Second Empire (London, 1938), p. 191.Google Scholar
30 Russell, to Palmerston, , private, 7 Dec. 1859. Palmerston Papers (consulted by courtesy of the Trustees of the Broadlands Archives).Google Scholar
33 Russell, to Gladstone, , private, 23 Dec. 1859. Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,291, fos. 278–9.Google Scholar
37 Gladstone, to Russell, , private, 23 Dec. 1859. Copy in Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,291, fos. 275–7.Google Scholar
39 Cowley Papers, F.O. 519/226. The memorandum is dated 2 Jan. i860.
40 For Palmerston's memorandum, see Ashley, E., The Life of Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, 1846–1865, II (London, 1876), 174–80.Google Scholar
41 Cobden, to Gladstone, , private, 7 Jan. 1860. Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, fo. 155.Google Scholar
47 See minute of 7 Jan. i860 by Russell. F.O. 97/207.
48 For a copy of the instructions dated 17 Jan. i860, see F.O. 97/207.
49 Russell to Palmerston, private, 5 Nov. and 27 Dec. 1859. Palmerston Papers.
51 Gladstone, to Graham, , private, 16 Jan. 1860.Google Scholar Copy in Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,164, fo. 217.
52 For the memorandum, see Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,750, fos. 204–7. The memorandum is undated but it was probably written sometime between 14 and 17 Feb. i860. Gladstone also mentioned in it the chief commercial reasons for concluding the treaty: the commercial inducement on the French side was the considerable reduction of duty made in favour of her wines while that on the British side was the conviction that once France was won over to free trade, other countries might be more easily persuaded to follow her example.
53 Cobden, to Cowley, , private, 5 Jan. 1860. Copy in Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, fo. 152.Google Scholar
56 Gladstone, to Graham, , private, 16 Jan. 1860. Copy in Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,164, fo. 217.Google Scholar
57 Cobden, to Bright, , private, 29 Dec. 1859. Copy in Cobden Papers, Add. MS 43,631, fo. 54.Google Scholar
58 Cobden, to Gladstone, , private, 2 Dec. 1859.Google Scholar Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, to. 10.
64 The Daily News, 16 Jan., the Press, 28 Jan. 1860.
65 Cobden, to Gladstone, , private, 23 Jan. 1860. Gladstone Papers, Add. MS 44,135, fo. 246.Google Scholar
69 Cobden, , Diaries, Add. MS 43,675 B, 30 Mar. 1860.Google Scholar The Emperor's explanation substantiates the main thesis by Pagés, G., ‘The Annexation of Savoy and the Crisis in Anglo-French Relations, January-April, 1860’, Coville, A. and Tempeley, H. W. V. (eds.), Studies in Anglo-French History, 18th-20th Centuries (Cambridge, 1935), pp. 83–104.Google Scholar