Front Page Titles (by Subject) (A 1): [Ricardo on Torrens] - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 4 Pamphlets and Papers 1815-1823
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(A 1): [Ricardo on Torrens] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 4 Pamphlets and Papers 1815-1823 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 4 Pamphlets and Papers 1815-1823.
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First published by Cambridge University Press in 1951. Copyright 1951, 1952, 1955, 1973 by the Royal Economic Society. This edition of The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo is published by Liberty Fund, Inc., under license from the Royal Economic Society.
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[Ricardo on Torrens]
According to Major Torrens supposition 5 days labour are necessary to produce a certain quantity of flax and 90 days labour are further required to make that flax into Cambric.
To make the coarse linen he supposes that 40 days labour are necessary to procure the flax and 20 additional days to work it into linen.
Under these circumstances I say that the cambric will have a value superior to the linen in the proportion of 95 to 60.
Major Torrens says that before society is divided into the two classes of capitalists and labourers the cambric will be twice the value of the linen, but after such division it will be of equal value,1 and therefore he contends that the principle which I endeavor to establish of commodities being valuable only in proportion to the labour necessary to produce them, when the fixed capital of the manufacturer is of the same value and of equal duration is not true.
To support his opinion Major T supposes that men having all the requisites to work should employ their labour not on the commodity which is ultimately to be produced but on some other nowise necessary to its production.
Thus he supposes that the manufacturers of cambric employ their labour in producing food, and while consuming the food they manufacture their flax into cambric; but as this is not the most economical course for the manufacturers to pursue Major Torrens should shew why they should follow it; why when they had 50 days subsistence they should rather employ men in producing subsistence than in producing cambric, the commodity they intend to sell in the market.
Suppose the Capitalist to have at his command 95 days labour, and that the materials mentioned would produce 100 yards of cambric; he can at once produce them, for it is acknowledged that 5 days labour will produce the flax, and 90 will manufacture the flax into cambric.
The manufacturer of coarse linen requiring also by the supposition 60 days labour to produce 100 yards, viz. 40 for the flax, and 20 for the manufacture of the flax into linen; 95 days labour will give him 158 yards, consequently the value of cambric will be to that of linen as 158 to 100—or as 95 to 60.
But the same quantity will be given when society is divided into two classes if the circumstances are as here supposed, for either the two capitals will be of equal or of unequal value. If equal the returns must be equal which can only be while 95 yards of linen will exchange for 60 yards of cambric,—if unequal the returns must be unequal and must be in the proportion of 95 to 60 to yield the same number of yards and give to each capitalist the same rate of profit.
But the circumstances here supposed never take place, a man having 50 days labour at his disposal cannot produce flax, and then cambric; for though 5 days labour only may be necessary to produce the flax, of which the cambric is made, he must probably wait 6, 9 or 12 months before he can add the labour to it necessary to make cambric.
It is therefore requisite to consider the case as stated by Major Torrens where he supposes that two men have equal capitals each of the value of 100 days subsistence—the capital of one consisting of flax of the value of 10 days subsistence and food of the value of 90 days subsistence; the capital of the other consisting of flax of the value of 80 days subsistence, and of food of the value of 20 days subsistence. Will not these commodities says Major T be of equal value being the products of equal capitals? I answer yes.1 But continues Major T if you agree that they will be of equal value is it not evident that they are not the result of the same quantity of labour, you yourself having shewn that one required only 60 days labour the other 95? To which I answer that the proposition in my book requires that they should be of equal value although there be different quantities of labour employed in their production, because in this case the raw material in both manufactures2 is really fixed capital of equal duration, but of unequal value. That employed in the production of linen being 8 times more valuable, than that employed in the production of the cambric.
[It appears then that every thing is fixed capital which is employed on production except that which resolves itself into wages. If with a capital of £1000 I manufacture commodities made of Iron that part of my capital only can be considered as circulating which is exclusively devoted to the payment of wages.]1
To shew this, let us take a strong case. Suppose 5 mens labour to be employed for a year in making iron; it will sell not only for the labour which produced it, but for as much more as the profits on the capital which employed the 5 days labour; suppose this profit to be added to the capital, and to employ 6 men for the next year in producing the same commodity; and that this be sold and the profit added to the capital, and so on for twenty years; and that at the end of that period, the iron produced will sell for £100. Suppose now another man possessing a capital equal to the employment of 5 men for a year, should make them work in planting a piece of ground, which affords no rent, with acorns. It is evident that at the end of twenty years, the wood growing on his land should be of the value of £100; for as he started with a capital equal to that of the man who employed the labour he could command on iron, and as the capitals had in both cases accumulated for 20 years without affording any advantage in the interim to their owners, their results must be equal to afford the same profits. Now the whole quantity of labour realized in the wood is only that of 5 men for a year, that employed on the iron very considerably exceeds the labour of 100 men employed for a year. Here then are two commodities of equal value one of which is the production of more than 5 times the quantity of labour employed on the production of the other.
Now supposing Iron to be necessary in one manufacture and wood in another, altho’ their cost should be equal, and all other parts of the circulating capital of the manufacturers, who work on these commodities as raw material be also equal, and the prices of their finished commodities be equal, yet those finished commodities would be the result of un-equal quantities of labour, because unequal quantities were necessary to the production of the raw materials of each. Thus suppose a cutler to employ a capital of £1000—£100 of which consisted of steel1 , and an upholsterer to employ an equal capital of £1000—£100 of which consisted of wood, the steel made by the cutler in one year, and the furniture made by the upholsterer in the same time would2 sell for the same money, but as the iron employed would contain much more labour than the wood, the finished commodity in iron would continue in its finished state to represent more labour than the finished commodity in wood, altho the same quantity of circulating capital had been subsequently employed on them. In the same way it might be proved that a carpenter and upholsterer employing the same amount of capitals but an unequal value of wood as their raw material, though they would sell their finished goods for the same money, yet those goods would represent different quantities of labour. This last is Major Torrens case and is in my opinion completely answered by shewing that in the production of the raw material different quantities of fixed capital were used.
[1 ]To understand how Torrens may have reached these results in the missing note to which Ricardo is replying, it must be kept in mind that (as appears from the sequel in Ricardo’s Note and from Torrens’s reply to it) he was assuming: (a) that one day’s labour produces two days’ subsistence, (b) that ‘a capital’ consisting entirely of subsistence is used in the first year to produce both the raw material and the subsistence which are required to manufacture the finished product in the second year. The quantity of labour necessary to produce a commodity is treated by him as including the labour employed during the first year in producing the subsistence consumed by workers in the second year.
[1 ]There is attached here a footnote: ‘See Note 1’, but the note referred to is not extant.
[2 ]‘in both manufactures’ is ins.
[1 ]This paragraph is deleted.
[1 ]‘in its rude state’ is del. here.
[2 ]‘would’ replaces ‘ought to’.