Richard Cobden and the democratic peace
Richard Cobden, father of the Anti-Corn Law League, whose great triumph was the repeal of 1846, was motivated by more than Britain’s commercial greatness. Unilateral free trade was, for him, part of a wider system of ideas that linked free trade to prosperity and peace. He argued in two major pamphlets published in the mid-1830s on ‘England, Ireland and America’
and ‘Russia’ (Cobden 1969) that the defeat of protectionism would mark a revolutionary change not just in commercial policy, but in the foreign policy of his own country, and, he hoped, of the world. Free trade would, he hoped, bring peace.