FROM this time I remained much at home and engaged in my father's business as a cotton-spinner and manufacturer.
I have omitted to notice a matter of great importance in connexion with my political career--my first meeting with Mr. Cobden. I had invited him to attend a meeting on the Education Question in which he was then taking great interest. The meeting was held in the schoolroom of the Baptist Chapel in West Street.1 I spoke at it, having carefully written out what I had to say. I didn't "break down" but was in some fear of failure, and I suffered so much that I resolved never again to write and commit to memory another speech, a resolution to which I have adhered.
Mr. Cobden spent the night at my father's house, and from this visit began a friendship which continued unbroken so long as Mr. Cobden lived. He died on April 2, in the year 1865.
I took a lively interest in some questions which excited and in some degree disturbed our town, the most important being that of the imposition of Church Rates. The Vicar of this parish2 came down from Kent, and was totally unacquainted with the people and with the opinions of this district. He fought for the supremacy of his Church: we resisted him and his party, and after great meetings and furious contests and costly lawsuits we put an end to Church Rate contests and to Church Rates in this parish. I took an active part in the discussion of the question, and once spoke to a very large meeting in the old Church Yard, my platform being one of the tombs standing near the church.
But a greater or a more pressing question soon came forward, into which I was drawn by an irresistible impulse. I refer to the question of the Corn Law, and its effect upon the condition and sufferings of our population.
In the year 1838, when in Manchester on my regular business, I one day met Mr. Prentice, of the Manchester Times newspaper. He____________________