Where the Club of Cobden’s portals
House those very brainy mortals—
German honorary members,
French and Russian by the score; 1
I observed the Parrot standing
In an attitude commanding,
Screaming in a German accent:
Dot Ihr Essen kosten more.

“Why”, I asked him, “have you chosen
Words that might in Kiel or Posen
Seem the thing, but which in London
I have rarely heard before?
If you join in our discussion,
Cease to talk to us in Prussian.”
But “A bas!” the Parrot answered.
Vos repas vous couteront more.”

So I cried: “Your secret’s leaking;
For the manner of your speaking
Would suggest your sympathising
With the envious foreign corps—
Jealous of the British Nation,
Hating ‘Joe’ with trepidation.”
But the bird replied in Yankee:
Stranger, food will cost you more.”

“Bird”, I said, in language bitter,
“You had better be a flitter
To more suitable surroundings on
Some distant alien shore;
For the foreigner desiring
British trade to be acquiring,
He it is who tells our people that
Your food will cost you more.’”


On 30 September 1903, the Times had printed a letter from Mr J Powell Williams MP, who said that he had been “taken to task, in ludicrously unrestrained terms” by some newspapers because, in an earlier letter, to the secretary of the Cobden Club, he had described the club as “consisting largely of gentlemen of foreign origin who come from countries [. . .] the Governments of which resolutely refuse to practise what the Cobden Club preaches” and had noted that “It is obviously in the interest of these foreign countries that the present fiscal system of Great Britain should continue in force.” One of his critics had said the foreign members of the Cobden Club were “purely honorary” and “have no influence upon the policy of the club”.

After pointing out that in 1902 the 485 members of the Cobden Club included 170 foreigners, living abroad and classed as honorary members, as well as many members with foreign names living in Britain, he asked:

Suppose the British members of the club, instigated by a desire to promote the interest of Great Britain, were to come to an opinion that a change in our fiscal system, not in the direction of free imports, were necessary, would not the foreign members [. . .] resist any such alteration in the policy of the club? Would they not make their voices heard in asserting, each in his own tongue, and none perhaps in ours, the eternal principle of “free dumping” as applied to Great Britain only?

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