Enlightened and Important

Richard Cobden

[Given the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh: 19th January, 1843. In testimony of his straightforward and independent advocacy of the principles of free trade generally, and abolition of the Corn Laws in particular]

I have no pretension to be enrolled among the description of men to whom the Lord Provost has alluded. I disclaim, personally, all title to such an honour. I view it, not as a personal compliment, I accept it not as such, I consider the Council in voting me the freedom of the city as having merely recorded, by a large majority, I hope, their opinions in favour of those great principles which I humbly, but earnestly advocate. You are a body calmly and dispassionately elected by a large and intelligent community, not actuated by exciting or party feelings in connection with the question which I have so much at heart. You are, therefore, a body capable - if any body of men are capable - of clearly, dispassionately and impartially viewing the question upon which you have now given an opinion -, and I cannot doubt but that the present expression of your opinion will have great weight elsewhere, and that it will be felt both beyond the precincts of your council chamber and your city.

If anything were wanting to convince me of that of which I need no further evidence to convince me - I mean the truth and justice of the principles which I advocate - I should find it in the testimony of this enlightened and important community. If I wanted any stimulus beyond what the claims of humanity and justice enforce upon me, for continuing to advocate the principles of free trade, I should find it in the honour now conferred upon me. And if at any time I should find myself flagging or desponding in the task I have undertaken, in aiding others to combat elsewhere for the achievement of these great principles, I shall be sustained by the recollection that Edinburgh has declared herself favourable to them.