SPEECHES ON VARIOUS OCCASIONS
GENERAL COURT OF PROPRIETORS OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND
21 March 1811
Mr. Cattley, the first speaker, ‘entered into a vindication of the Bank, against the attacks made upon them by the Bullion Committee, Mr. Huskisson and others. He said that the Bullion Committee should have examined into the causes of the high price of bullion, which they had wholly neglected to do—and it would not be just to require of the Bank to pay their notes in specie, whilst gold was at so high a price’.
Mr. Ricardo ‘then rose, and was proceeding to make some observations on the remarks of Mr. Cattley, when he was reminded by the Governor that there was no question before the Court.’
Mr. Ricardo said, that he would have wished to set the Honourable Proprietor right, with regard to some of the facts which he had stated respecting the Bullion Committee, but as such discussion was not thought admissible he would confine himself by putting a question to the Directors. He said that in the discussion of principles, it was highly essential that the facts by which those principles were ultimately to be tried, should be correctly stated. He had observed, however, that in the papers which had at different times been submitted to Parliament, there appeared facts which were at variance with each other, and of which he hoped the Court would receive some explanation. It appeared, he said, by a paper which was published in the Appendix to the Report of the Secret Committee of the Lords, that in October of the year 1795, the Directors stated the price of gold bullion to be 4l. 3s. to 4l. 4s. per ounce, although no traces of any such price could be discovered in any list that was published during that year; on the contrary, the price quoted in December of that year, in the list which Mr. Goldsmid, in his evidence, declared to be authentic, as he himself furnished the prices to it, was 3l. 17s. 6d. That further, in 1797 Mr. Newland, in his evidence before the same Secret Committee, had declared that he had known the Bank to give as much as 4l. 1s., 4l. 2s., 4l. 6s., and as high as 4l. 8s. per ounce and when asked on what occasion the Bank gave 4l. 8s. said it was about two years since, speaking then in March 1797. Mr. Ricardo said that there was a paper just laid before Parliament by the Bank, in which they stated, not the lowest, not the average, but the highest price which they had given for gold bullion from 1773 up to the present period. In this account it appeared that the Bank had never given more, from 1786 to 1800, than 3l. 17s. 10½d. per ounce. He found it difficult to reconcile this seeming contradiction, and he hoped the Directors would explain it.
Mr. Pearse, the Governor, ‘observed in reply, that the price being stated by the Directors to be 4l. 3s. or 4l. 4s. per ounce in the year 1795, did not afford any proof that the Directors of the Bank had purchased at that price. That 4l. 8s. being given, as stated by Mr. Newland, was, he believed, correct—it was by way of experiment in the beginning of the year 1796, and was obtained by their agent in Portugal, but which was discontinued after a small quantity had been purchased. That in a return which they had since made to the House of Commons, they had stated this and some other exceptions.’
GENERAL COURT OF PROPRIETORS OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND
21 December 1815
Mr. Bouverie moved ‘that an account be laid before a General Court...of the amount of the surplus profits of this Company’.
Mr. Ricardo warmly supported the motion, and wished to recal the Court to the consideration of the real question before them, which appeared to him to be, whether the system to be acted upon should be that which was prescribed by the law of the land, and by the Bank Charter, or whether the Proprietors should be deprived of that participation in the profits to which they were, both by the one and the other, so clearly entitled. It had been contended by the Gentlemen who had preceded him, that on the present extended scale of the commerce of the country, the profits of the Bank, instead of being divided among the Proprietors ought to go to an increase of its capital. Now, though he might be of opinion that a Bank, deriving its profits from the capitals of others, required no such increase of capital for itself, yet it was nevertheless a matter of indifference to him in which of the two modes the accumulated profits should be applied; all he contended for was, that the Proprietors had a right in the production of such accounts as would exhibit the actual amount of such profits, and that it might be a subject of future regulation how they should be disposed of.
Mr. Mellish, the Governor, ‘then rose and said that he felt he should be betraying his duty were he to answer the topics urged by the last speaker, as well as the mover; that the Company had all along placed great confidence in their Directors; and that if any reason were harboured for wishing to withdraw it, he begged that their accusation might be spoken out.’
The question was put, and ‘on a shew of hands was lost by about two to one.’
[The question was raised again before a General Court of Proprietors held on 21 March 1816 to declare a Dividend, when an amendment was moved for the adjournment of the Court until 28 March to enable the Governor and Directors to produce accounts showing the surplus profits. The amendment being defeated, a paper signed by eleven Proprietors, including Ricardo, was delivered to the Governor demanding a ballot on the motion of amendment. The ballot took place on 26 March and resulted in the defeat of the motion by 393 votes to 69. ]
GENERAL COURT OF PROPRIETORS OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND
8 February 1816
Mr. Mellish, the Governor, stated that the object for which the Court was called together, was to consider a letter from the Government applying for an extension for two years of the loan of three millions now existing without interest, and for a new loan of six millions at 4 per cent for two years. Ministers intended to propose to Parliament that the restriction on cash payments be continued for one year. The Directors proposed complying with the application of Government. The Governor reminded the Court that ‘their engagements with the country, in so far as it regarded their chartered rights, were now near a termination, and therefore it was absolutely necessary that some understanding should be come to with Government’, in order to effect an arrangement, based on equity and good faith.
Mr. Ricardo wished to know whether it was understood that, at the expiration of the period of the loan, the Bank would continue in the custody of the money of the government? He was led to this inquiry by a paper laid before the House of Commons, in which the Directors seemed to claim the custody of the money as a right. Now, however, they seemed to have abandoned this claim.
Mr. Mellish ‘declined entering into any discussion on the topic alluded to by the hon. proprietor. He could not be expected to say what would happen two years hence. In the mean time a bargain must be a bargain.’
The motion was put and was ‘carried by a very large majority, there being only two or three hands held against it.’
GENERAL COURT OF PROPRIETORS OF THE BANK OF ENGLAND
18 March 1819
On the motion for a dividend, an amendment was proposed that no dividend should be declared until ‘an exposition of the funds, income, and expenditure of the Bank should be made to the Proprietors’. The Hon. Mr. Bouverie stated that the Bank had acknowledged the existence of a Reserved Fund, and the Proprietors ought to be informed of its amount. Sir Thomas Turton said that ‘it seemed absurd to vote a given dividend, without knowing the amount of the capital from which it was distributed’.
Mr. Ricardo was of the same opinion, and expressed his confident belief that the Bank were in possession of at least 5,000,000l., in addition to their known capital of 15,000,000l. It was not a fear of their poverty but a jealousy of their riches that had provoked inquiry. Whilst it was clear, therefore, that the proprietors had a right to know the condition of their affairs, it was equally manifest that no injury would arise from the disclosure. A letter which he had received from one of the directors of the Bank of France entirely accorded with his views.
After some further discussion Mr. R. Jackson said that demands for increased dividends might result in their restriction by Parliament, as had happened with the East India Company. While he did not doubt the motives of those who brought forward such motions, ‘it was still certain that patriotism, and a desire to impair the profits of the Bank, were not necessarily connected’.
‘Mr. Ricardo and Mr. Bouverie disclaimed any such object as that referred to by the hon. and learned gent., in the conduct formerly pursued at the East India House; and the former desired also to vindicate an absent member of their body from any supposed imputation of the kind.’
The amendments were negatived.
MEETING ON MR. OWEN’S PLAN
26 June 1819
‘A very respectable and numerous meeting of both sexes was held in Freemasons-hall, for the purpose of taking into consideration the plan of Mr. Owen.’ The chair was taken by the Duke of Kent. After a speech of Mr. Owen, who explained his plan for the employment and improvement of the poor, the names of those who were willing to be members of the committee to investigate the plan were announced.
Mr. Ricardo begged to trouble the Meeting with a few observations. As his name was placed upon the Committee, he should state shortly those circumstances in which he agreed and in which he differed from the preceding speaker. He completely concurred with him in the commendations bestowed upon the illustrious personage who presided at the meeting. It was an example of zeal for the public good, and of benevolent intention, worthy of the highest praise. In a limited degree he thought the scheme likely to succeed, and to produce, where it did succeed, considerable happiness, comfort, and morality, by giving employment and instruction to the lower classes. No person could admire more than he did, or appreciate more highly, the benevolence of his friend (Mr. Owen) to prosecute his plan with so much zeal, and at the expense of so much time and trouble. He could not, however, go along with him in the hope of ameliorating the condition of the lower classes to such a degree as he seemed to expect: nor should he wish it to go forth to the public that he thought that the plan would produce all the good anticipated from it by his sanguine friend. As a member of the Committee, he should do every thing in his power to forward the objects for which it was appointed.
At a subsequent meeting, held at the City of London Tavern on 26 July 1819, the Committee was finally appointed, Ricardo being a member. In August the Committee appealed for the subscription of £100,000 for the establishment of an agricultural and manufacturing community as an experiment on the lines of that at New Lanark. On 1 Dec. 1819, as the subscriptions amounted to less than £8,000, the Committee resigned and in a final resolution urged that the Government should facilitate the experiment by granting a portion of the Crown lands and using the funds raised for the relief of the poor.
GLOUCESTER COUNTY MEETING
30 December 1820
‘One of the most numerous and respectable meetings of the County of Glocester which has been held for several years took place at the Shirehall, Glocester’. The object of the meeting was to consider an address to the King on ‘the illegal and unconstitutional measures’ taken by the Ministers in the late proceedings against the Queen. Lord Sherborne was called to the chair. The address having been unanimously adopted by the meeting,
Mr. Ricardo came forward and was received with marks of approbation. He said he was sure this meeting felt as he did respecting the conduct pursued on a late occasion in the House of Peers by their noble Chairman and by Lord Ducie (Loud cheers). The county he was sure could but feel one sentiment upon that conduct; it was entitled to their fullest and most unqualified approbation (Reiterated cheers). These noble Lords had in an independent and manly manner opposed his Majesty’s ministers during the prosecution of the Queen. It became the county to express their opinion of the conduct of the noble lords who had acted in so independent a manner, and his object at present was to propose to them a vote of thanks (Hear). He would take this opportunity of declaring his hearty approbation of the terms of the address, as well as those used by the gentlemen who had spoken upon it. Indeed, if he had any thing in the way of complaint to urge or cavil with, it was, that the address had not gone as far as it ought to have gone; for it appeared to him that many of the evils of which they complained were to be traced to the present constitution of the House of Commons (Applause). If that house fairly and fully represented as it ought the people at large, the country would not now have to deplore such an accumulation of wrongs (Applause). It would have been quite impossible for ministers to have pursued a career so diametrically opposite to the general opinion of the country; nor would a House of Commons, representing the general voice of the community, have suffered such a departure from the public wishes and interests. Entertaining, as he unequivocally did, such an opinion, he must say that he should have still more approved of the address, if it promptly and plainly recommended that no delay should be lost in making the House of Commons what it ought to be, and what its name imported it should be, namely, a representative of the public voice—an organ acting in sympathy with the tone of popular feeling, and constitutionally embodying and expressing the voice of the country at large in a full and unquestionable manner (Great applause). The hon. gentleman concluded by proposing a vote of thanks to Lords Sherborne and Ducie.
‘The motion was unanimously agreed to and followed by three cheers.’
MEETING AT HEREFORD IN HONOUR OF JOSEPH HUME
7 December 1821
A meeting in honour of Joseph Hume, M.P. was held at Hereford on 7 December 1821, to present him with ‘a superb silver tankard’ and ‘a hogshead of prime Hereford cider’, in recognition of his efforts in Parliament to lessen taxation and reduce corruption. Mr. E. B. Clive presided.
Addressing the meeting, Mr. Hume urged the people to resume their ancient right of control over their representatives in Parliament—the only remedy for the existing abuses in public expenditure. He later complimented Mr. Ricardo and other members ‘for the zealous assistance they had rendered him in Parliament’, and regretted that Mr. Ricardo had been so unjustly misrepresented as a friend of the fundholder and an enemy of the landowner.
The President spoke next and concluded by proposing ‘the health of one of the first political economists of this or any other age, Mr. Ricardo, who I am happy to say is a considerable freeholder amongst us.’
Mr. Ricardo said, he felt highly gratified by the manner in which the mention of his name had been received by the respectable company before him, and begged to return his grateful thanks for the honour which had been conferred on him. With respect to the misapprehension of an opinion he had given, alluded to by his Honourable Friend Mr. Hume, he should endeavour in very few words to remove it, as he did not wish to occupy the attention of the company by any thing personal to himself. Thinking, as he did, that the national debt was a most oppressive burden on the industry of the country, he had, in his place in Parliament, expressed his opinion that it would be a measure of wisdom to submit once for all to a great sacrifice in order to remove it, and for that purpose recommended a general and fair contribution of a portion of every man’s property; not, as had been said, of the property of the landowner only, but of that of the merchant, the manufacturer, and the fundholder. He should have been ashamed of himself if any thing so unfair could ever enter his mind as that of exonerating the fundholder from the payment of his quota of so equitable a tax. On this subject he should say no more, as he fully agreed with his Hon. Friend, Mr. Price, that as this day was set apart for the purpose of acknowledging the services of Mr. Hume, questions wholly extraneous should be avoided. Of Mr. Hume’s services to the public, he entertained as high an opinion as any gentleman present; and as he had seen much of his persevering exertions, he could perhaps speak of them with more accuracy than many others. Mr. Hume’s exertions in Parliament had been unremitting as they all knew; but he had duties to attend also in different committees, and few could have a just idea of the number of documents which he had had to consult. When he considered the variety of accounts which came under his notice, and the voluminous reports which he had read, he believed he might say, that in persevering exertions, Mr. Hume had never been surpassed by any former or present member of Parliament. It was a pleasure to him (Mr. Ricardo) to reflect, that he had voted on all occasions in favour of economy; and while he had a seat in the House of Commons, he would continue to give his Hon. Friend his best support in opposing every wasteful expenditure of the public money. He concurred fully with the Hon. Chairman and with Mr. Hume, that a reform in the representation was of vital importance to the interests of the country.—Without it good government might truly be said to be impossible. To obtain a reform, then, every exertion should be made; but he recommended to those who heard him to consider well what constituted a real and efficient reform of the Parliament; for much error might and did prevail on this important question. The subject might be considered under three views—First, the extension of the elective franchise; secondly, the frequency of elections; and, thirdly, the mode of election. With respect to the first of these, the extension of the elective franchise, he did not consider it the most important object of the three he had mentioned, yet no reform could be an adequate one which did not greatly extend the elective franchise—for he should be contented if it went so far as householder suffrage. Upon the second point, frequency of elections, he should say that without it there would be no check in the hands of the electors against the corruption of the members. If elections were not frequent, we should not very materially improve our system, and if they were, it would be but reasonable to allow each member to act as he thought proper, notwithstanding the known sentiments of his constituents—those constituents would have the power to displace him at the following election. With respect to the third point, the mode of election, he thought that of the greatest importance on a question of real reform. To secure a real representation of the people in Parliament, there must be secrecy of suffrage, or as it was commonly called election by ballot. It was nothing but mockery and delusion to pretend to give the right of voting to a man, if you prevented him from exercising it without control. Let the kind offices and superior talents of those above him in station have their due effect in influencing his will—this was a just and legitimate influence, but do not subject his will to the will of another. If you do it, it is not his vote you obtain, but the vote of another man, and it would be better and more honourable to give it to that man in the first instance. He (Mr. R.) had thought much on this subject: he had attentively considered all the objections which were brought against voting by ballot, but he could see no weight in them. He hoped whenever the important subject of reform came under the consideration of the gentlemen present, they would not fail to pay due attention to this vital security for good government.
‘Mr. R. concluded amid loud cheers.’
WESTMINSTER REFORM DINNER
23 May 1822
‘The Independent Electors of Westminster held their 15th anniversary dinner at the Crown and Anchor Tavern, in commemoration of the patriotic struggle, which terminated in the election of Sir Francis Burdett as their representative in Parliament.’ Sir Francis Burdett was in the chair, and, after several other toasts, he proposed the health of ‘Mr. C. H. Hutchinson, Mr. Ricardo, and the reformers of Ireland.’ After a speech of Mr. Hutchinson,
Mr. Ricardo, in returning thanks, declared that there was not in the room a more real friend to the cause of reform than he was. He was a friend, not to a sham reform, but a real one, which would give to the people a majority, and more than a majority, in the House of Commons. This desirable and most necessary end might still, he thought, be attained in the House of Commons; not, indeed, by any efforts of the members within doors, but by the exertions of the people without—exertions which would compel attention, and which must be obeyed. He fully agreed with the noble lord (Nugent) that it was a silly question to ask the reformer to put his finger on the page of history which he deemed his model. His plain answer would always be, that the people had a right to demand the best government they could obtain in their own times, and that if their ancestors had refrained from asking it, it was no reason why their posterity should.
GENERAL COURT OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY
12 June 1822
A Special General Court of Proprietors of the East India Company was held ‘to consider a Bill pending in Parliament, for consolidating the several Laws relating to the Private Trade with the East-Indies; and also to consider the propriety of concurring in the repeal of the law by which ships under the burden of 350 tons are at present precluded from engaging in such trade from the United Kingdom.’ Mr. C. Forbes, who opened the debate, said that the East-India interest was not as powerfully represented in Parliament as the West-India interest; he thought it would be good policy if all the Directors were provided with seats in the House of Commons.
Mr. Ricardo regretted the absence of the gentlemen who usually spoke from that part of the Court, and more particularly of Mr. Hume, who was obliged to attend a Committee of the House of Commons, and could not, in consequence, take a part in the discussion; he hoped, however, that the Court would favour him with their attention while he made a few observations. The Hon. Proprietor who had just spoken had very properly observed, that, in the House of Commons, the interest of the public only should be looked to; that the Members of that House ought not to be swayed by a partiality for the East or the West-India interest. He admitted that it ought to be so; but that man must be blind, who would say, that the House of Commons, as now constituted, performed its duty in that immaculate manner which the Hon. Proprietor described.
Mr. Lowndes rose to order.
Mr. Ricardo assured the Court he would not say another word on the subject. An Hon. Proprietor (Mr. Robertson) seemed to be adverse to opening a free-trade with all European states. If that were the question before the Court, he would willingly meet him on the subject. But the question was not, whether France or Spain should be allowed to enter into the India trade; it was one which entirely concerned English interests. The Gentleman who opened the debate, said he asked only for justice and equality; he wished to be placed on the same footing as the West-India merchant; he did not seek for a monopoly. In those views he (Mr Ricardo) entirely concurred; and, if he wanted to prove their truth and policy, he would refer to the speech of the Hon. Proprietor (Mr. Robertson); for he had shewn that, by taking off restrictions, the trade to the Brazils and to the free-states of South America had increased in a wonderful degree; and, in doing so, he had himself pronounced the warmest eulogium on unrestricted trade. He thought no country could trade advantageously, if she placed restrictions on the commodities with which any state, to whom she was commercially related, could furnish her. It was in vain for the Company to think of sending their goods to India, unless they could take what India was enabled to afford in return. (Hear, hear!) This position was so clear and self-evident, that he wondered any man could doubt it. If all restrictions were removed from the commerce of the country, and it was left to pursue that course which its own active principle would strike out, it would, most assuredly increase in an almost infinite degree. He had no hostility to the West-India interest; on the contrary, he participated in the feelings of regret which their sufferings excited; and if he could assist them, without doing so at the expense of others, he would not be found tardy in affording relief: but he would not support them at the expense of other interests. The buying their sugar at an advanced price was not the only disadvantage which the country suffered from the system. For his own part, he would give to them the difference in price between the East-India and the West-India sugar, as a gratuity, rather than suffer this unjust privilege should be granted to the West-India interest. (Hear, hear!) An Hon. Gentleman (Mr. Carruthers) had protested against the charge that had been levelled at his Majesty’s Ministers, who were said to entertain the intention of giving to one class of persons an unjust advantage over another. That Hon. Gent. seemed to have a very high opinion of his Majesty’s Government. Perhaps he also thought that they meant well. But Gentlemen must shut their eyes, if they did not perceive, that Ministers were not unfrequently obliged to favour particular interests. The power some bodies possessed, the clamour they raised, the interest they commanded in the House of Commons, frequently compelled Ministers to adopt a course which they did not think a proper one. They had an instance of this in the last week. A bill, altering the navigation laws, was passing through the House, and Ministers wanted to carry a clause relative to the importation of thrown silk; but, with all their efforts, they were unable to succeed. In that case Ministers could not carry a point, which appeared to him to be correct. He wished to see a House of Commons free from party, where the interest of the public would alone be considered, in which a deaf ear would be turned to all partial application. (Hear, hear!)
GENERAL COURT OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY
19 March 1823
After the quarterly meeting the General Court of Proprietors resolved itself into a Special Court, at the request of nine Proprietors (including Ricardo), ‘to take into consideration the present state of the East-India sugar trade’. Mr. C. Forbes moved:
‘That it appears to this Court, that since the repeal by the act of last session of Parliament, of the restrictions formerly imposed on the West-India trade, no pretension exists for any exclusive protection to the sugars of the West-Indian colonies against those of British India.
‘That as the present unequal duties on the sugars of the East and West-Indies terminate in March 1824, this Court do earnestly recommend to the immediate attention of the Court of Directors the necessity of using their strenuous efforts with his Majesty’s ministers, to obtain an equalization of the said duties.’
Mr. Forbes said that Mr. Whitmore intended to bring this subject under the consideration of Parliament after the recess. Mr. A. Robertson, opposing the motion, raised again the question of shipping which had been debated the previous year.
Mr. D. Ricardo said, he could not follow the Hon. Gent. in his observations with respect to ships of small tonnage; at the same time he thought it was a question of very great importance. The Hon. Gent. had entered into a great number of arguments, in order to dissuade the Court from agreeing to the resolution now under discussion. If he had heard the Hon. Gent. in any other place, or if he had been ignorant of his sentiments, he should indeed have conceived that the Hon. Gent. was addressing an assembly of West-India planters, for he (Mr. Ricardo) should use precisely such arguments as the Hon. Gent. had done, in order to overturn their claims. (A laugh!) The Hon. Gent. had stated truly, that when there was a surplus of sugar in this country, prices must be higher on the continent than here, to induce the merchant to export it; but he would ask the Hon. Gent. was that any reason why an unsound principle should be contended for? He would ask of the Hon. Gent., and of those whose cause he espoused, ‘Are you afraid to give equal rights and an equal protection to all classes of His Majesty’s subjects?’ (Hear!) The Hon. Gent. had also stated, very correctly, that the mere enumeration of exports and imports would not give a true idea of the commerce which one particular country carried on with another. They might export to a country, but it did not follow that that country should pay in a direct manner: because the exporting country might wish to receive the proceeds in commodities which were the growth of another state. The Hon. Gent. said, this was a mere question between the agents of different interests: he (Mr. Ricardo) thought otherwise. He viewed it in the light in which it was regarded by the Hon. Director before him (Mr. Bebb), and he could view it in no other. He considered it to be a question in which the public were the great parties concerned; (Hear!) for he should not have appeared in that Court, he should not have interfered, or raised his voice on this question, but in behalf of the public. (Hear!) It might be very true, that the price of sugar was so low as not to encourage its cultivation; it might be very true that it did not fetch a remunerating price: but were not arts resorted to for the purpose of raising the price? It was acknowledged that there were. And was not a hope held out in some publication, that, by diminishing the supply, the planter might get firm hold of the home-market, keep it without a surplus, and then raise the price as he pleased? Now, he would ask, had the people of England no interest in all this? Had they no interest in procuring their sugar from other countries, and preventing the continuance of this most odious monopoly? They were called on, as the ground for their decision, to compare the exports and imports with reference to the East and West-Indies: but that mode did not satisfy his understanding. He asked, what was the object of this measure? It was to procure sugar at a cheaper rate; and, if it were made manifest to him that, by adopting it, they would make sugar cheaper, he would throw open the trade, although they exported millions of manufactures to the country which at present monopolized it. He thought the Hon. Gent. had encumbered the subject with many things which did not belong to it. He took a large view of the question, with reference to the greater likelihood of retaining our East-India or our West-India possessions. If they entered into these subjects, as connected with the question before them, they would be totally unfit to decide on it, so extremely difficult were they of solution; and he must say, that, for his own part, if he could not give a sound opinion on this particular question, without well understanding the subjects which the Hon. Gent. had brought forward, he would not attempt to give an opinion at all; but, if he thought that the East-Indies or the West-Indies would be severed from this country in a month, it would not alter the vote that he would give: for, would it not still be to the interest of India to send her sugars to this country if she were placed under the Government of any other power? Certainly it would; and, therefore, the parties immediately concerned had little to do with this point. (Hear!) He again asserted, that the public interest was concerned. He would go farther than either of the contending parties were inclined to go. He thought no exclusive protection should be granted to either the East or the West-Indies, and that we should be free to import our sugar from any quarter whatsoever. No possible injury could arise from this. The Hon. Gent. also alluded to another subject, but in a manner which he (Mr. Ricardo) was sorry to hear. He professed his love for freedom of trade, as the principle under the influence of which commerce was sure to prosper; but then he made so many qualifications that he quite lost sight of his original proposition. (A laugh!) He would protect the monopoly of the landed interests, he would protect the monopoly of the tea-trade; and several others, all of them, he believed, just as objectionable as the very monopoly they were discussing. With respect to the shipping-interest, no argument appeared to him to be so weak as that adduced by them. They asserted that, by the adoption of this measure, the shipping of the country would be greatly reduced. But could they get sugar from the East-Indies without shipping? and was not the voyage much longer? Every view he could take of this subject proved to him that those interested in shipping, would be particularly benefited by the proposed equalization. There were some other points to which he meant to call the attention of the Court, particularly with respect to cotton. The Hon. Gent. had instanced the cotton-trade, and argued that by the aid of machinery, by importing cotton from America, and by exporting the manufactured goods to India, great injury was inflicted on the manufacturing class in that country. Undoubtedly some injury was done to that class; but one would think the Hon. Gent. would have turned his attention to the accompanying good. He would ask the Hon. Gent. in what commodities those exports were paid for? Those who exported must have got a return in something else they had not before had. If we send cotton goods to India, they must be paid for. Our cotton goods were purchased with other manufactures; new branches of trade were thus struck out, and both countries were ultimately benefited. The one country was employed in making machinery and working it, and the other in fabricating those manufactures by which our cottons were paid for. Instead of pointing out in what line capital should be employed, he thought it would have been as well if the Hon. Gent. had left that point to be settled by the individual. (Hear!) It was undoubtedly very kind of the Hon. Gent. to lecture those who might be inclined to embark their capital in the East-India sugar-trade; (A laugh!) it was very considerate of him to warn them of their danger; and he thanked the Hon. Gent. for his admonition. (A laugh!) But he could not think, at this time of day, when they had advanced so far in commercial knowledge, that the Hon. Gent. was perfectly competent to decide on the manner in which capital should be laid out (Hear!) Indeed, he seemed anxious to apply the customs of the East to the commerce of Europe, and to keep the same system going on, from father to son, without variation, to all eternity. (Hear!) An Hon. Gent. (Mr. Tucker) had alluded to the subject of slaves, and declared that he was proud to be an Englishman, more particularly in consequence of what had occurred in the last few months. In truth, he had reason to be proud of it. No man could possibly value this country more than he did. It had signalized itself gloriously a thousand times. But he confessed that he really was inclined to blush with shame, to hide his face, when West-India slavery was mentioned. (Hear!) It was a stain on the otherwise pure character of the country, which he ardently desired to see wiped away. (Hear!) The question of slavery was one of infinite importance. It well deserved the consideration of the country. He meant to cast no imputation on the planters; it was the infamous custom, the shocking system, against which he directed his reprobation; for, surely it was impossible that any man could, for a moment, reflect on the treatment and punishment of slaves without shuddering. (Hear!) It was this country that had to answer for the continuance of that abominable system. On this day, he believed, a petition would be presented to Parliament by a most benevolent individual (Mr. Wilberforce) in favour of that unfortunate race of men, who were subjected to the horrors of slavery. He hoped the application would produce its just effect, and that this grievous stain would be removed from the national character. (Hear!)
Mr. Robertson explained that ‘he had not attempted to direct individuals how they were to dispose of their capital’.
Mr. Ricardo said, when he spoke of the Hon. Gent.’s offering his advice as to the disposition of capital, he did not mean it in any invidious sense.
WESTMINSTER REFORM DINNER
23 May 1823
‘The Anniversary Dinner of the Electors of Westminster, in commemoration of the establishment of their Independence in the Election of Sir F. Burdett, took place at the Crown and Anchor Tavern. At five o’clock upwards of 400 persons sat down to a very substantial dinner.’ Mr. J. C. Hobhouse took the chair, in the absence of Sir F. Burdett who was prevented from attending by illness.
The first toast proposed was, ‘The People, the only source of legitimate power’ (applause).
The next was ‘The King, and may he always recollect his declaration, that he holds the Crown in trust and for the benefit of the people’ (with three times cheers).
Mr. Ricardo next rose and said, a toast had been put into his hands, which he should give with the greatest pleasure— ‘The only remedy for the national grievances, a full, fair, free, and equal Representation of the People in the Commons’ House of Parliament.’ To him it appeared that such a representation of the people was absolutely necessary, as a check and security against misgovernment. It was absolutely necessary that we should have a House of Commons which should represent the people fully and efficiently, instead of representing only a small portion of the people of England. Great difference of opinion existed and might very fairly exist as to the extent to which the Elective Franchise should be carried. A numerous class of persons in this country thought that it should be extended to the whole of the people; others thought it would be sufficiently extensive if given only to householders. Between these two opinions there was much debateable ground; he did not think this a point of such essential importance, as some appeared to consider it, and in his opinion there would be sufficient security for good government if the Elective Franchise was extended no farther than to those who paid direct taxes, or who were fairly called householders. What he considered a point of much greater importance was, that to whatever classes the elective franchise might be given, the privilege should be fairly exercised by those classes (applause). They ought not to be in any degree influenced by those who were superior to them in rank or fortune. He did not deny to the higher classes the fair influence arising from talents, property and good offices, but he did deny to them the privilege of dictating to Electors in the exercise of the elective franchise. He did think it of the utmost importance that the elective franchise should be exercised in such a manner as to give the most complete security, that the votes given should be the real votes of the people. It was said by Mr. Fox in the House of Commons, that he should be a friend to Universal suffrage if he knew any mode by which the real votes of the people could be effectually obtained under such a system, but he objected to Universal Suffrage because he was satisfied that it would in reality give a greater power to the Aristocracy than it at present possessed. In that opinion of Mr. Fox, he (Mr. R.) should entirely concur, if he did not think that there was an easy and practicable mode of securing to the people the free choice of their Representatives. The mode he alluded to was that of secret suffrage, or what was commonly called voting by ballot (applause). By the establishment of such a system he was fully persuaded, that we should have a House of Commons which would fairly express the opinions of the people; and that no measures would originate in such a House of Commons which had not the good of the people for their object. It was to him a subject of congratulation that so small a change as this would secure to the people of this country all the blessings of good government. We were not in the situation of other countries, which in order to obtain those blessings were compelled to go through all the horrors of a revolution. We were so happily situated that nothing but a rational and practicable Reform was wanting to put us in possession of all the blessings we could desire. He knew, it was objected to them, that if they had such a House of Commons as this the Crown and the Aristocracy could no longer exist. He believed no such thing; he believed the people of this country were attached to their institutions. Let them have no motive for changing those institutions, and that attachment would remain. Englishmen were not naturally fond of change; they were not a fickle people; on the contrary, they rather endured abuses too long (applause). There was another security for good government, which he should have been sorry to have forgotten on this occasion. Our Parliaments should be frequently chosen (applause). Without frequent Parliaments there was no security for liberty. It could not be denied that we possessed in this country a good deal of practical liberty, though it was not administered in the way which would contribute most effectively to the happiness of the people. While a free press, and the privilege of meeting to discuss their grievances remained, even shackled as those privileges now were, this country could never be said to be entirely without liberty. The perseverance of the Electors of Westminster had set a great example to the rest of the country, and he trusted the time was not far distant when their firm, consistent, and persevering efforts in the cause of Reform would be crowned with success. The Honourable Gentleman concluded by giving ‘A full, fair and free Representation of the People in the Commons’ House of Parliament.’