Front Page Titles (by Subject) ABSENTEES 16 May 1822 - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence
ABSENTEES 16 May 1822 - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence 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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16 May 1822
Sir T. Lethbridge presented a petition from 600 respectable inhabitants of Somerset, praying for a tax on absentees who had taken up their residence in foreign parts. He said that it was calculated that in Paris alone there resided 10,000 families of English, Irish and Scots; they were spending large sums and by transferring the money to France they gained an advantage of 25 per cent.
Mr. Ricardo wished to set the hon. baronet right, as to the state of the exchange, which was now, he could assure him, very nearly at par; and it was impossible it could be far otherwise, because with a metallic circulation in this country and in France, the exchange could never vary more than from ½ to ¾ per cent. As to the petition, he should be sorry to see its prayer granted; because a tax on the property or income of absentees, would hold out a direct encouragement to them to take away their capital, as well as their persons. Now, we had at any rate their capital, which was useful, though not so useful as if they also stayed at home. What most surprised him was, that the hon. baronet should bring such a petition forward, at the very time that he was proposing in the agricultural committee a resolution which might make all the articles of life, and provisions in particular, attainable at the dearest rate. The hon. baronet was for high duties; the imposition of which would be the readiest means of compelling people of small fortunes to quit the kingdom. Of all the evils complained of, he (Mr. R.) was still disposed to think the corn laws the worst. He conceived that were the corn laws once got rid of, and our general policy in these subjects thoroughly revised, this would be the cheapest country in the world; and that, instead of our complaining that capital was withdrawn from us, we should find that capital would come hither from all corners of the civilized world. Indeed, such a result must be certain, if we could once reduce the national debt—a reduction, which, although by many considered to be impracticable, he considered by no means to be so. That great debt might be reduced by a fair contribution of all sorts of property—he meant, that, by the united contribution of the mercantile, the landed, and he would add, the funded interest, the national debt might be certainly got rid of. If this were done, and if the government would pursue a right course of policy as to the corn laws, England would be the cheapest country in which a man could live; and it would rise to a state of prosperity, in regard to population and riches, of which, perhaps, the imaginations of hon. gentlemen could at present form no idea. [Hear, hear.]