- How money from slavery made Greater Manchester
- The importance of cotton in north west England
- The Lancashire cotton famine
- Smoking, drinking and the British sweet tooth
- Black presence in Britain and north west England
- Resistance and campaigns for abolition
- The bicentenary of British abolition
The American Civil War and the Lancashire cotton famine
Bust of Richard Cobden
Made by Josiah Wedgwood, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, after Edward William Wyon, 1860s
Object number T: 3755
Given by the Bright family, 1925
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Richard Cobden was born in Sussex, moving to Manchester in 1828 to set up a calico printworks. He was involved in local politics for over 20 years, along with close friend and Rochdale mill owner John Bright. Cobden decided to retire from public life in 1857 when Bright lost his seat as MP for Manchester, due to his opposition to the Crimean War. However, although Cobden left Britain two years later to visit the USA, he found, on his return, that he had been elected MP for Rochdale in his absence.
Cobden was a dedicated campaigner for abolition and enjoyed considerable popular support. With the onset of the American Civil War in 1861, he made many inspirational anti-slavery speeches in parliament and at large public meetings in and around Rochdale. He remained Rochdale's MP until his death on 2 April 1865, just one week before the Confederate surrender that signalled the end of the war and only 12 days before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
Writer and celebrated orator Frederick Douglass, who himself escaped slavery, acknowledged Bright and Cobden in his 1883 autobiography, describing them as 'friendly to the loyal and progressive spirit which abolished slavery and saved our country from dismemberment'. They became known politically as 'the two members for the United States' and Bright later said of his friend that the American Civil War caused Cobden to be 'more broken down in heart and feeling' than anyone else known to him.
This bust was made of Parian porcelain at Josiah Wedgwood's Etruria factory in Stoke-on-Trent, from an original by Edward William Wyon. Parian porcelain resembles marble in its matt white finish and Parian figures of historical and classical figures were very popular in middle class Victorian homes.
This information was provided by curators from Touchstones Rochdale.