“The State is a severe mother”

From Lord Welby’s preface to The Political Writings of Richard Cobden, 1903 (PDF):

The State is a severe mother. She demands from her noblest sons their intellects, their energies, and, if need be, their lives; but she is not ungrateful. The men who have guided her destinies live in grateful memory and in memory the more honoured, if to great service and lofty aims they have added disregard of self, directness of purpose, and simplicity of character. Such men become household words of the nation. They create the standard by which the nation measures itself and by which it is measured. They strike the keynote of national character. Such a man was Richard Cobden, a type of a great Englishman to Englishmen of all times, a type in his truthfulness, in his simplicity, and in his devotion to the welfare of his countrymen.

Cobden sacrificed his fortune and even, for a time, his health to further the interests of the ordinary person. His fortune was restored to him by public subscription.

Let us hope that in 2010 we see a little more of Cobden’s spirit in British politics.