Front Page Titles (by Subject) NOTE ON TWO PAPERS ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM - The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence
Return to Title Page for The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 5 Speeches and Evidence
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
NOTE ON TWO PAPERS ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
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.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
NOTE ON TWO PAPERS ON PARLIAMENTARY REFORM
These two papers were published posthumously by McCulloch in the Scotsman newspaper.
The Observations on Parliamentary Reform appeared in the issue of 24 April 1824, together with an editorial article which opened: ‘We shall be excused, we trust, for taking some pride, in being able to state, that our leading article of to-day is from the pen of the late Mr Ricardo; and when we have made this announcement, it is almost unnecessary to add, that, from what is due to the memory of the author, as well as to the public, the Essay has been printed verbatim, and without the alteration of a word or syllable, from the manuscript.’
McCulloch reprinted it, under the same title, in his edition of Ricardo’s Works, 1846, with the following note: ‘The manuscript of the following Essay on Parliamentary Reform was given by Mr Ricardo, a short time before his death, to Mr McCulloch. The latter, not thinking it right that so important a paper should be withheld from the public, printed it in the Scotsman of the 24th of April 1824.’
The Defence of the Plan of Voting by Ballot appeared in the Scotsman of 17 July 1824, which introduced it with the following paragraph: ‘The following Report of one of Mr Ricardo’s speeches in Parliament—most probably the one he delivered on the 24th April, 1823, in the debate on Lord John Russell’s motion—written in his own hand, was found among his manuscripts subsequently to his death. His friends have kindly communicated it to us, and we now publish it verbatim from the manuscript, without alteration of any kind whatever. Mr Ricardo was always a decided supporter of the system of election by ballot; and he has here stated, with that brevity, clearness, and comprehensiveness of view peculiar to himself, the grounds on which he approved of that system. We will not presume to say that Mr Ricardo has entirely obviated all the objections that have been urged against the ballot; but every one will readily allow that his defence of it is most able and ingenious, and that he has said almost all that can possibly be said in its behalf.’
McCulloch reprinted this paper, with the note, in his edition of Ricardo’s Works, under the title ‘Speech on the Plan of Voting by Ballot’.
Since the above has been in proof, the original MS of the two papers has been found with the Mill-Ricardo papers. It consists of a quire written over 38 pages in Ricardo’s hand, containing four items:
1. ‘Extract of a letter from Hutches Trower to D. Ricardo dated 18 Octr. 1818.’
2. ‘The answer to the above (dated 2d. Novr. 1818).’
3. Defence of the Plan of Voting by Ballot.
4. Observations on Parliamentary Reform (3 and 4 have no titles in the MS).
This combination confirms the conjecture that the papers were written in 1818.
Besides, from Ricardo’s letter to Mill of 8 November 1818, we learn that of the ‘two discourses’ mentioned by Mill on 18 November one was a copy of the letter to Trower of 2 November and the other ‘a subsequent paper which I have just written’. The latter we may suppose, from the sequence in the MS, to be the Defence. The Observations would then be the third discourse of which Ricardo thought so ill that, after announcing in his letter to Mill of 23 November 1818 that he was sending another of his ‘wise discourses’, he added in the postscript: ‘On looking over the papers which I was going to send you, I am so discontented with it that I cannot send it.’ In the end, however, he sent it: ‘yesterday I dispatched to you the paper on reform ... of which I was ashamed at the moment that I was about to enclose it.’ (Letter to Mill, 28 December 1818.)
The text printed in the Scotsman contains occasional changes in wording which, though slight, are not likely to have been introduced by the printer: this suggests that the two papers were printed from copies corrected by Ricardo or possibly by Mill or McCulloch. Therefore the text below adheres to that of the Scotsman, except for the correction of a few misprints.