Who resisted and campaigned for abolition?

Richard Cobden

Richard Cobden came to Manchester in the late 1820s, attracted by an expanding economy based on cotton. He developed interests in calico printing and the buying and selling of land and property in Manchester. Cobden lived at various addresses in Manchester, including Harvest House, Mosley Street.

Political interests

Cobden was soon involved in political questions, rising to local fame for his part in the campaign to reform Manchester’s redundant system of local government. He went on to become one of the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law League, a pressure group that placed him and Manchester on the national political map. The Anti-Corn Law League adopted similar tactics to those used by the abolitionists in the campaigns that had resulted in the landmark anti-slavery acts of 1807 and 1833.

Anti-slavery stance

A liberal in politics, Cobden was a natural supporter of the anti-slavery movement. For him slavery could not be justified either morally or in economic terms.  Speaking in 1844 he gave voice to one of the contradictions that lay at the heart of the Lancashire cotton industry. At that time, pressure was being applied to stop the purchase of slave-grown sugar from Brazil.

‘What right have a people who are the largest consumers and distributers of cotton goods to go over to the Brazils with their ships full of cotton, then turn up the whites of their eyes, shed crocodile tears over the slaves, and say, 'Here we are with a cargo of cotton goods, but we have qualms of conscience, religious scruples, and cannot take your slave-grown sugar in return for our slave-grown cotton'? In the first place the thing is inconsistent, and in the next it is hypocritical’.

Cobden followed his political ally and friend, John Bright, in opposing the southern states in the American Civil War. For Cobden the southern states were attempting to build a country based on slavery, a pernicious institution that was indefensible. 

This information was provided by Terry Wyke.