Front Page Titles (by Subject) The 'Ingenious Calculator' - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 4 Pamphlets and Papers 1815-1823
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The ‘Ingenious Calculator’ - 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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The ‘Ingenious Calculator’
In 1797 the Bank of England, although unwilling to disclose the absolute figures for their cash and for their discounts, had delivered to the Secret Committee of the Lords on the Suspension of Cash Payments two separate ‘scales’ (or, as they would now be called, index numbers) for cash and for discounts over the years 1782 to 1797. These scales were printed in the Appendix to the Report.
Ricardo, in Economical and Secure Currency, says that ‘by comparing these tables with each other and with some parts of the evidence delivered before the Parliamentary Committees, an ingenious calculator discovered the whole secret which the Bank wished to conceal.’1 He refers again to the same ‘ingenious individual’ in his Plan for a National Bank.2 But in neither of these cases does Ricardo quote his source or give any clue to the identity of the calculator.
Dr Bonar has suggested that it might be Thomas Tooke.3 Tooke’s first contribution to the question, however, was in 1829 when he applied the key furnished by the calculator of 1797 to the further scales disclosed to the Committees of 1819.4
If we look into the matter further the following facts emerge. The ‘ingenious calculator’ published his results in an article ‘On the Finances of the Bank’, dated ‘London, Oct. 16, 1797’, which appeared in the Monthly Magazine for October 1797; he signed himself ‘M. N.’
The article was reprinted by Alexander Allardyce in his Address to the Proprietors of the Bank of England, 3rd ed., 1798,5 where he refers to the author as ‘a writer, eminent for financial knowledge and acuteness’.6 In a MS note in a copy of Allardyce’s book which belonged to Lord Henry Petty (afterwards Lord Lansdowne) ‘M. N.’ is identified as ‘Mr. Morgan’.
No doubt Ricardo read the article in Allardyce’s book, which had been sent to him by Grenfell when he was writing Economical and Secure Currency;1 having guessed his identity, he must have written about it to Grenfell, for the latter, writing on 20 September 1815, asked him: ‘Where is the calculation of Mr. Morgan, as to the Cash and Bullion of the Bank in 1793 &c.?’2
This Mr. Morgan was no doubt William Morgan (1750–1833), F.R.S., actuary to the Equitable Assurance Society and author of many financial pamphlets.
Morgan discovered the key for deciphering what he calls the ‘cabalistical numbers’ of the Bank in an unpublished part of the evidence: he had ‘very good reason for believing (although the circumstance is not inserted in either of the reports) that one of the Directors acknowledged that the Bank, in the course of six days before it stopped payment, had been drained of its cash after the rate of £100,000 each day.’ Since the scale had been given both for 18 and 25 February 1797 (the beginning and the end of the period in question) he was enabled to calculate the absolute figure of the cash for all the dates included in the scale. The differences between the figures thus obtained and the aggregate figures for cash and bills discounted, which were published, gave the amount of bills discounted.
In 1810, at the request of the Bullion Committee, the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Bank again ‘furnished a comparative Scale, in progressive numbers, shewing the increase in the amount of their discounts from the year 1790 to 1809, both inclusive.’ But, no doubt as a result of their previous experience, they requested that the document should not be made public; the Committee therefore returned it to the Bank.3 Another leakage occurred, however, when the following letter appeared in the Morning Chronicle of 15 October 1810. As it also gives the voting in the Committee, which is not available in full elsewhere, it is here reprinted.
[1 ]Above, p. 99 and cp. p. 112 n.
[2 ]Above, p. 279.
[3 ]‘Who was the “ingenious calculator” who found out the Bank’s cash and bullion in 1797; was it Tooke?’ (Economic Journal, 1923, p. 414.)
[4 ]See below, p. 418.
[5 ]Appendix, pp. 82–90.
[6 ]Address, p. 32.
[1 ]See below, VI, 260.
[2 ]Below, VI, 275.
[3 ]Bullion Report, 8vo ed., p. 62.