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II: NOTES ON WESTERN’S ‘SECOND ADDRESS TO THE LANDOWNERS’, 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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The question of the Usury Laws was first raised in the House of Commons, after the end of the war, by Brougham in a speech of 1 February 1816.1 The law then in force was an Act of Queen Anne (12 Anne Stat. 2. c. 16) which limited the rate of interest to five per cent. Following Brougham’s suggestion, on 22 May 1816 Serjeant Onslow, M.P. for Guildford, moved to bring in a bill for their repeal; this bill, which was later withdrawn, was the first of a series of unsuccessful attempts to obtain their repeal. Onslow’s motion was introduced again in May 1817, when it was postponed till the following year.
On 21 April 1818, again on Onslow’s motion, a Committee was appointed ‘to consider the effects of the Laws which regulate or restrain the Interest of Money’.2 The Chairman of the Committee was Onslow himself and among the members were the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Castlereagh, Robinson, Wallace, Huskisson, Sir John Newport, Sir James Mackintosh, Baring, Brougham, Sir Samuel Romilly; Sir Henry Parnell was added to the Committee on 28 April.
3. That the present period, when the market rate of interest is below the legal rate, affords an opportunity peculiarly proper for the repeal of the said laws.1
No action was taken till 10 Feb. 1819 when Onslow again introduced a Bill to repeal the Usury Laws; but on 9 June it was postponed once more. It was revived on 12 April 1821, when it was the occasion of a debate in which Ricardo took part;2 after being deferred several times the bill was dropped. A similar bill was introduced by Onslow in 1823, when Ricardo again spoke in support;3 it was however once more abandoned. Onslow renewed his attempts in 1824 and 1826 with no better success.
Ricardo’s Evidence is here reprinted from the ‘Report from the Select Committee on the Usury Laws’, in Parliamentary Papers, 1818, vol. vi.4 Numbers have been prefixed to the questions, and questions and answers printed in separate paragraphs.
The Suspension of Cash Payments by the Bank of England, which had been effected by the Order in Council of 26 February 1797, and confirmed by the Bank Restriction Act of the same year (37 Geo. III c. 45), was continued by an Act of 1803 (44 Geo. IIIc. 1), ‘until Six Months after the Ratification of a Definitive Treaty of Peace’. After the Peace of Paris however the Resumption of Cash Payments was postponed by successive Acts,1 the latest of which, in 1818, had fixed the date for Resumption as 5 July 1819.
Early in the Session of 1819 the Chancellor of the Exchequer intimated in the House of Commons that he would bring forward a measure for continuing the Restriction Act for a short period; but, soon after, he announced that in consequence of a communication from the Directors of the Bank (who preferred to ‘submit to the Consequences of a Parliamentary Inquiry’ rather than consent to a temporary and inadequate measure)2 he proposed to move for a Committee of inquiry.3 On 2 February 1819, on the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was agreed that a Committee of Secrecy consisting of twenty-one members should be appointed ‘to consider of the State of the Bank of England, with reference to the Expediency of the Resumption of Cash Payments at the period fixed by law, and into such other matters as are connected therewith; and to report to the House such information relative thereto, as may be disclosed without injury to the Public interests, with their Observations’. On 3 February the members were chosen by ballot as follows: Lord Castlereagh, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Vansittart), Tierney, Canning, Wellesley Pole, Lamb, Robinson, Grenfell, Huskisson, Abercromby, Bankes, Sir James Mackintosh, Peel, Sir John Nicholl, Littleton, Wilson, Stuart Wortley, Manning, Frankland Lewis, Ashurst, Sir John Newport.1 Peel was Chairman.
On 4 February the Lords appointed a Secret Committee, with the same terms of reference as the Commons’. The members were: Earl of Harrowby (Lord President), Duke of Wellington, Marquess of Lansdowne, Earl Graham, Earl Bathurst, Earl of Liverpool, Earl of St. Germains, Viscount Gordon, Viscount Granville, Lord King, Lord Grenville, Lord Redesdale, Lord Lauderdale.2
The enquiries of both Committees soon became centred round the plan of bullion payments, which had been outlined by Ricardo in the Appendix (1811) to his High Price of Bullion and developed in his Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency (1816). Ricardo’s plan hd been intended as a permanent system of currency; but the Committees at first considered it only as a temporary device to facilitate the resumption of cash payments. And although in the later stages of the enquiry the plan was discussed as a permanent system, it was eventually as a temporary measure that it was recommended by the Committee and embodied in Peel’s Act. Nevertheless, even after the Act had been passed, Ricardo and his friends retained the hope that the plan might still be adopted permanently.3
Also the scheme, which was adopted, of reducing the price of gold according to a fixed scale until the mint price was reached was an idea of Ricardo; he had suggested it in 1811 in a letter to Tierney4 (now a member of the Commons’ Committee), but not in his published writings.
Some account of the proceedings of the Committees in their early stages is given in his Diary by J. L. Mallet,1 who was in close touch with some of the principal witnesses, particularly William Haldimand2 and Alexander Baring,3 as well as with some of the members. In the entry for 13 February 1819, he writes that he ‘dined at the Marcets with Abercrombie, Sharpe, Ricardo, Mr Geo. Philips, the Rev. Sidney Smith and his wife, Mr and Miss Boddington. In the evening Mr Blake, Sir Edward Coddrington, Dr Wollaston, and other People came in’. The conversation first turned on Parliamentary Reform:
‘The examination of William Haldimand (Mrs Marcet’s Brother) before the Lords Committee, for two days successively,1 and during five hours in each day—and the effect produced by his evidence and the information he had given the Committee, was a subject of general remark and congratulation....
It was on 12 February, during the examination of Haldimand before the Lords’ Committee, that the plan of bullion payments was first mentioned. He was asked: ‘Does the Witness think, that gradual Reduction [in the Amount of Paper Circulation] would be secured by compelling the Bank of England to sell Bullion at the price of 82s. during the first three Months; 81s. during the next three Months and so on in Succession, reducing it in Fifteen Months to the Mint Price?’1 Haldimand asked for time to consider the question and when recalled on 15 February he said: ‘I have consulted two sensible Men, whom I consider to understand the Subject; and I do think, in Concurrence with them, the Plan well calculated to secure to the Public a gradual and certain Restoration of the ancient Value of the Currency.’2
The first reference before the Commons’ Committee to the plan was in a question put to William Ward, a Director of the Bank, on 23 February: ‘What would, in your opinion, be the effect of requiring the bank of England to sell gold and silver bullion, in quantities not less than the value of £100 sterling, to holders of their notes, at the present market price, and to lower the price at a given rate weekly, until it fell to the mint price, provision being at the same time made that the bank should, in each week, buy bullion at a fraction less than the selling price of each week?’ Ward objected that such a plan would not save the Bank from a run ‘occasioned by panic or by politics’.1
‘Bank notes will be required to be made a legal tender so long as, and no longer than the bank gives 25 ounces of gold for 100l. in bank notes.’1
The following day, 3 March, Alexander Baring stated before the Lords’ Committee that he had ‘a very favourable Opinion of the Plan of Currency suggested by Mr. Ricardo, as combining the two Desiderata of an extensive Paper Circulation, with Security against its Depreciation.’2
Meanwhile Ricardo had been in touch with members of the Committees and was expecting to be examined. On 28 February he had written to Trower: ‘The inquiry into the state of our currency, and exchanges, is proceeding in both houses very satisfactorily. I have had many conversations with several of the Committees of both Houses—with Lord Grenville, Marquis of Lansdown, Lord King, Mr. Huskisson, Mr. F. Lewis, Mr. Grenfell and others. All have a very perfect knowledge of the subject, and all agree that the progress of the public in comprehending the question has been very great. The Bank Directors themselves have improved, and they are far behind every other person. I confidently rely on measures being taken to place our currency in a satisfactory state. I am told that I shall be examined.’3
On 4 March he gave evidence before the Commons’ Committee and outlined his plan. It is curious that in his evidence, both to the Commons’ and to the Lords’ Committees (below, p. 379, Q. 21 and p. 422, Q. 21) Ricardo recommended that the Bank should have the option of paying their notes either in specie or bullion; whilst in the subsequent debate in the House of Commons he opposed Ellice’s amendment which gave to the Bank just such an option (above, p. 11). Perhaps Ricardo at first took it for granted that, Bullion payments being more advantageous to the Bank, the latter would not normally exercise the option of paying in specie; and later, when the reluctance of the Bank Directors to operate the plan became apparent, he thought it necessary to make Bullion payments obligatory.1
Thereafter most of the witnesses before the Commons’ Committee were asked for their opinion on the plan of bullion payments. N. M. Rothschild, on 8 March, to the question whether he was acquainted with ‘the plan proposed by Mr. Ricardo for the regulation of the payments at the bank’, replied: ‘I cannot recommend it, because, in case any news comes from abroad that there is the smallest chance of a war, every one will come at once and take out gold bars; a man may fetch a hundred thousand pounds worth of gold bars out of the bank in five minutes; but if you pay in cash, the bank will find out this, and they must count the cash; and in the course of a short period the government will hear of this, and the bank may be protected.’2 He added that there would be many other difficulties in the plan; in particular, there was the danger of silver bars cased over with gold being passed for gold bars.
‘There has been another modification of that plan suggested, which would have this effect, that the bank should immediately or at the expiration of three months commence the payment of its notes in cash, but that they should pay in coin at the market price of gold, and that there should be a gradual reduction of the price of the gold which they should pay, until the market price of gold was reduced to the mint price; do you conceive the adoption of that plan would facilitate the resumption of cash payments?— I have paid very little attention to that, and am not able to give an answer; as to the other, I read the work, and it seemed to me to suggest an ingenious plan to counteract some of the objections which have occurred to the resumption of cash payments.’1
On 11 and 12 March Alexander Baring was examined on ‘Mr. Ricardo’s plan’.2 He said that ‘The plan in question is, in fact, no other than that of the bank of Hamburgh, only substituting a currency of paper in lieu of a transfer of book debt; and the bank of Hamburgh has always been found, from long experience, the best institution for preserving the standard of value; the payments of the bank of Hamburgh are solely in silver bullion.
‘You have probably heard that another plan has been suggested for the resumption of cash payments, with reference to the present actual price of gold, and varying the amount at which the issues should be made from time to time, in proportion as the price of gold shall come nearer to the mint price; setting aside the question of good faith, which is involved in the first step of such a plan, do you think in other respects that it is practicable and advisable? —I should think not; I do not think the bank could be placed in a state of cash payments much earlier, by making a small difference in the price at which they would begin to pay, than by abiding by the old standard; there might be some facility, but not sufficient to justify so great a novelty.’1
On 17 March John Smith, a London banker and a member of the House, questioned on ‘Mr Ricardo’s suggestion’, agreed that it would be advantageous to country banks. Asked for his opinion of ‘the merits of that plan generally’ he answered that he felt ‘favourably disposed towards it’.2
Two more witnesses were examined by the Commons’ Committee on the plan. Vincent Stuckey, a country banker, on 22 March, agreed that ‘the plan for the resumption of cash payments, commonly called Mr. Ricardo’s’ would ‘afford a facility both to country bankers and to the bank of England’. Asked further ‘What are the inconveniences which you consider would arise from this change in the mode of paying the notes of the bank of England?’, he replied ‘I am not aware of any inconvenience which can arise; I think it would be attended with very considerable convenience to pay the larger sums in bullion: it appears to me to be a very great improvement on a well-regulated paper currency; and it has always struck me, that at the resumption of cash payments by the bank, the above would be by far the best plan I ever heard of: I think it would do away a great part of that which many dread, a great and general demand for guineas; and after a year or two, seeing how the plan answered, the circulation of coin might be introduced, if found necessary.’3
Thomas Smith, an accountant,1 asked on 24 March ‘Have you heard and considered of a plan, which is generally known by the name of Mr. Ricardo’s plan, for the resumption of cash payments?’ replied ‘I wrote a reply to it a few weeks after it was published’.2 To the question ‘Do you think the plan of Mr. Ricardo preferable to the one for the resumption of cash payments, in the sense in which cash payments are ordinarily used?’ he replied ‘I conceive Mr. Ricardo’s plan to be perfectly illegal, and to be impossible to be put in practice without risking the destruction of the bank, and the ruin of the country’. He then explained his own views on a standard of value and criticised at length Ricardo’s plan.3
Baring replied: ‘the Plan which I consider as by far the most perfect, and to which I know no Objection of any Sort, and which I am not sure that I should not prefer even to the old State of Currency, if that State could be easily returned to, is the Plan alluded to in the Question.’1
Richard Page,2 a general merchant, asked on 17 March ‘Are you acquainted with Mr. Ricardo’s plan?’ answered ‘I have read it’ and added that under this plan ‘you have got one sort of Currency for every rich Man, and another sort of Currency for a poor Man ... you give the rich Man the best, and you give the poor Man the worst.’3
Thomas Tooke was examined on 22 March. In reply to a question on the restoration of the value of Bank of England paper he said: ‘I have heard of no Measure better adapted, than one which has been suggested, of obliging the Bank by an Act of the Legislature to sell Gold Bullion at certain stated Prices progressively downwards, till it shall have reached the Mint Price; because I conceive, that there would be very great Danger of any Measure short of this failing of its Effect, as no Words merely conveying the Promise of a Resumption of Payments in Specie can satisfy the Public that it will actually take place at the Period fixed’.4 On being asked whether he thought it possible to effect the restoration by stages so as to reach the mint price by 5 July 1820, he expressed the hope that this might be effected in a shorter period and stressed the disadvantages attending a long interval: ‘These Disadvantages are the Suspence and more or less Uncertainty in undertaking all commercial Operations, which may be influenced in their Results by the State of the Currency while they are in Progress.’5
Asked further: ‘Have you considered whether, after the Value of Bank Paper had been brought back to the Mint Standard, it would be more expedient that the Bank should thenceforth pay in Coin, on the same Footing as before the Restriction, or that their Payments should continue to be made not in Coin but in Bullion, at the Mint Standard?’ he delivered in answer a written paper: ‘The Plan of a Circulation of Paper, convertible into Gold Bullion only at the Mint Price, is admirable for its Ingenuity and Simplicity, and there can be no Doubt of its Convenience and Cheapness. It is particularly well calculated to serve as an intermediate Measure for limiting and regulating the Paper Circulation, till Arrangements can be made for establishing the whole Currency on a permanent Footing. But if proposed in itself as a permanent System, I cannot but consider it as objectionable. A Circulation so saturated with Paper would be liable to Abuse, and to a Suspension of the Check of partial Convertibility, on lighter Grounds than if the Currency consisted of Coin and of strictly convertible Paper. And, taken in a general point of view, it must be admitted, that a Basis of so frail a Material, resting so exclusively on Credit and Confidence, is exposed to the Danger of frequent Derangement, and in some conceivable Cases to total Destruction. But, above all, is the Objection arising from the extended Inducement to Forgery. And independent of these Objections to an exclusive Paper Currency, it strikes me that many Contingencies and Exigencies might arise, wherein an abundant Stock of the precious Metals might be of essential Advantage. Upon the whole, therefore, in as far as I might be permitted to give an Opinion, it would be in favour of a Return to Payments in Coin.’1 The rest of Tooke’s paper discussed the question of a seignorage on the gold coin. He agreed with the remark of Ricardo, in the Principles of Political Economy,2 that with a seignorage of five per cent the currency might be depreciated to that extent before coin were demanded and he supported the remedy proposed by Ricardo that Bank notes should be made payable in bullion, though not in coin, at the mint price. He suggested, as an improvement, that the gold bars should be issued by the Mint, instead of the Bank, ‘because, independently of other Advantages, the high Prerogative of the Crown, as the Source from whence every Thing like metallic Money should emanate, would be preserved, as in fact the Bar Gold thus stamped, and thereby acquiring additional Value, would be the simplest and cheapest Form of metallic Money.’1
Meanwhile the necessary permission from the House of Commons enabling Ricardo, as a member of the House, to appear before the Lords’ Committee had been asked by the House of Lords on 17 March and granted by the Commons on 19 March.2
Before concluding their hearings the Lords’ Committee recalled the Bank Directors to ascertain their views on the plan, which had come under discussion since their first appearance. On 31 March Jeremiah Harman, a former Governor, said: ‘The Plan suggested would be a great Change in our ancient Monetary System, without an adequate Object, as it strikes me; and no one can foresee all the Consequences it might lead to.’3 He also objected to the adoption for a period of a scale of gradually reduced prices on the ground that it ‘would be a virtual Re-opening at £3. 17s. 10½d.’ Moreover ‘it would oblige the Bank to go into the Bullion Market at a very great Disadvantage, and subject it to be the Sport of Bullion Dealers and Exchange Jobbers.’4
Samuel Thornton, also a former Governor, recalled on 2 April, expressed himself in favour of the plan of bullion payments on a graduated scale as a temporary measure: it would facilitate the ultimate resumption of cash payments, and it would allow a considerable saving of the precious metals. He suggested January 1820 as the earliest period at which the Bank could commence bullion payments at the market price, and twelve to eighteen months from that date before payments could be made at the mint price. He thought that it would be ‘a necessary Part of the Plan to pay on a graduated Scale’ to relieve the Bank from the liability to pay in cash their notes dated prior to 1817.5
The Governor, George Dorrien, heard again on 5 April, agreed that the plan of bullion payments would be a security to the Bank and would be a check on any sudden run upon it, and approved the principle of a graduated scale; he thought that bullion payments could not be begun before a year and a half and that a further twelve months would be required to bring down the price to the Mint standard.1
A bill to this effect was immediately brought in by Peel; it passed through all its stages in the House of Commons on the same day (5 April),2 and in the House of Lords on the following day, when it received the Royal Assent.
By this time Ricardo knew that his plan would be recommended in the final reports of the Committees. In a letter to McCulloch of 7 April, referring to the latter’s review of Economical and Secure Currency in the Edinburgh Review for December 1818, he wrote: ‘You have I am sure been the means of affording the most useful instruction, to many members of the Committees of both houses, and as for myself, I am under great obligations to you, for my plan might have slumbered, or have been forgotten, if you had not rescued it from oblivion, and said more in its favour than I had been able to do. You will be pleased to know that an investigation into the probable results of adopting that plan, or some modification of it, has formed one of the leading subjects of examination, by both Committees, and from the speech of Mr. Peel, as well as from those of Mr. Canning, and the Marquis of Lansdown, I have very little doubt but that it will be recommended, as a temporary, if not a permanent measure, in both reports.’3
‘The Committee of the Lords was unanimous with the exception of Lord Lauderdale who stuck to his own theory: the Committee of the Commons unanimous with the exception of Tierney and Mr Manning. Tierney from factious motives, and ignorance of the question: Manning as a Bank Director of the old school. There were no doubt many Members of the Lords Committee and some Members of the Commons Committee who went into the measure with their eyes shut and great terror and reluctance; but the weight of talent and influence carried them on. All the first men were agreed, including Lord Wellington.—Lord Castlereagh and Vansittart lagged behind: Ned Cooke, Lord Castlereagh’s right hand, was at the very time writing the most alarming pamphlets:1 Lord Harrowby and Lord Bathurst were dragged into the measure: but Lord Liverpool, Lords Grenville, Wellington and Lansdowne, Peel and Canning being agreed, no paper administration could be formed, and the reluctant multitude were obliged to yield. It will ever resound to the credit of Peel to have taken so honourable and decided a line: he went into the Committee, as he said himself,2 without any opinions; and if he had any bias it was against the proposed measure. He had always voted with Vansittart; and his Father Sir Robert Peel entertained so decided an opinion, that he proposed the resolutions and the Petition in the London Tavern,3 and presented the Petition to the House, warning them of their danger, and lamenting the error of his son...
‘That on or before the 1st October 1820, the Bank shall pay their Notes in Gold of standard fineness, at the rate of £.3. 19s. 6d.; and on or before the 1st May 1821, as before mentioned, at the ancient standard rate of £.3. 17s. 10½d.’1
‘4. That for two years, from and after the first of May 1821, the Bank shall pay its notes in gold bullion only at the Mint price; and that whenever Parliament shall think proper to require the Bank to pay its notes in coin, notice thereof shall be given to the Bank one year before hand, such notice not to be given before the first of May 1822.’1
Commenting on the plan recommended by the Commons’ Committee, Ricardo wrote to McCulloch on 8 May: ‘The Committee have deviated in two points from the plan as originally suggested—they think that the bars of bullion delivered by the Bank, in exchange for notes, should be assayed, and stamped, at the Mint; and they have advised that after 1823, at the latest, we should revert to the old system of specie payments. Perhaps, in both instances, they have done right, for the Bank persisting in the most determined opposition to them, they were under the necessity of having the bullion stamped that it might be legally called money of a large denomination, and that the Bank might not raise a clamour against them for having imposed upon that corporation the obligation of paying in Bullion, from which they said their charter protected them. In the second place they had to contend with public prejudice, and perhaps too with prepossessions which they themselves felt in favour of coin. If no inconvenience is suffered from the working of this plan for the next 5 years, the Bank will be amongst the foremost in contending that it should be adopted as a permanent system.’1
A set of Resolutions based on the recommendations of the Committees were moved by Peel in the House of Commons on 24 May2 when Ricardo made his first important parliamentary speech; they were adopted on the following day. Peel’s Bill, which embodied the Resolutions, received the Royal Assent on 2 July 1819.3
From the beginning the ingots had caught the public imagination and were referred to in the press as one of the oddities of the day. ‘The proposed Ingots have already obtained a name. They are called Ricardoes from their inventor, as the gold Napoleons were named from Bonaparte.’4 ‘Mr Ricardo’s ingots were the fashionable novelties of the day, like the automaton chess player,5 or the fair Circassian6 .’7 When they actually came into existence, in 1820, the market price of gold being below 81s, the demand for them was only as collectors’ pieces: ‘The Bank resumed bullion payments on 1st February, in ingots (to the amount of 300l.), commonly called Ricardos; and I understand that in the first three days only three were applied for. One for Lord Thanet, one for a country banker, from curiosity, and the other I know not for whom. The price of gold is from two to three shillings below the Mint price, which accounts for this little demand.’1
The Reports of the Lords’ and Commons’ Committees, with Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, were printed in Parliamentary Papers, 1819, vol. iii.1 The Lords’ Reports with Minutes of Evidence and Appendix were ordered to be reprinted on 15 February 1844, and an Index was added. These are the official editions in folio. An unofficial edition, in octavo, of the Commons’ Second Report and Minutes of Evidence was published by Charles Clement, London, in 1819.
Professor Cannan, referring to McCulloch’s supposition that this was a report of Ricardo’s speech on 24 April 1823 in the debate on Lord John Russell’s motion, says: ‘That McCulloch had not taken the most ordinary pains to verify a haphazard conjecture by referring to Hansard is shown by his use of the words “most probably”; that he had not taken the trouble to read the speech which he was reprinting is shown by the fact that it talks of “the Bill”, and is particularly addressed to criticism of two “clauses” in the Bill.1 If Hansard is to be trusted, it was never delivered.’2
Not only was the speech never delivered, but it appears that it was not written for delivery, having been almost certainly composed before Ricardo entered Parliament. The latest date for its composition is fixed by its allusion to the law ‘against the exportation of the coin’ as being ‘on our statute-book’.3 The law was repealed early in July 1819, and its existence could hardly have been used as an argument by Ricardo after 26 May 1819 when Peel’s Resolutions for the Resumption of Cash Payments, which recommended the repeal, were adopted by the House of Commons. Now, between February 1819, when Ricardo took his seat in Parliament, and this date, the question of Reform did not come before the House in any shape.
In 1818, however, when Ricardo was negotiating for a seat in Parliament, the question of Parliamentary Reform was a constant subject of discussion with his friends. In May he had daily walks with Mill in Kensington Gardens, and he wrote to Malthus ‘we could make a very tolerable reformer of you in six walks if your prejudices be not too strongly fixed.’4 Trower, when on a visit to London, joined in some of these walks1 and after his return to the country continued the discussion with Ricardo by letter. In August Mill went on a visit to Ricardo at Gatcomb and in September they were both in London for a fortnight, always continuing their discussions.2
A comparison of the Ricardo-Trower correspondence in the summer of 1818 with the Observations on Parliamentary Reform and the Defence of the Plan of Voting by Ballot points to the two papers having been also written in 1818. This is confirmed by a comparison with his later speeches on Reform, which he actually delivered in Parliament on 18 April 1821 and 24 April 1823;3 in these speeches he put forward proposals identical with those of the Observations and the Defence, but he omitted certain arguments which were relevant to the political situation of 1818 but would have been uncalled for in 1821 and 1823. Thus the argument in favour of the ballot in the letter to Trower of 27 June 1818 that ‘we should get rid of the disgusting spectacle of the lowest blackguards in every town assembling about the Hustings, and insulting in the grossest, and most cruel manner, those respectable candidates against whom their antipathies are excited’,4 which is echoed in the Defence of the Ballot,5 but not mentioned in the later speeches, was occasioned by the behaviour of the mob at the Westminster election in June 1818. Also, both in his letters to Trower of 1818 and in the Observations Ricardo finds it necessary to defend his proposals for Reform against the charge that, ‘by extending the franchise, you open the door to anarchy, for the bulk of the people are interested, or think they are so, in the equal division of property, and they would choose only such demagogues as held up the hope to them that such division should take place’6 —a danger which is not referred to in the speeches of 1821 and 1823. The fears entertained in the disturbed years 1818 and 1819 by ‘those who have property to lose’,7 had by that time largely disappeared.8
If the supposition that the two papers were written in 1818 is accepted, they may be identified as two of the ‘Discourses’ which Ricardo wrote at the instance of Mill as an exercise in speech-making before entering Parliament. In a letter of 23 September 1818, written from Bagshot and occasioned by the successful conclusion of the negotiations for Ricardo’s seat, Mill urges him to familiarise his mind with the things which must go to the composition of ‘good government’. ‘Then’ he writes ‘there will be no fear about the language in which your thoughts will spontaneously clothe themselves. Let those discourses, therefore, which we have so often talked about, be written without delay.’1 He then gives detailed instructions on the method of composition, and adds: ‘When the writing is done, you should talk over the subject to yourself. I mean not harangue, but as you would talk about it in conversation at your own table; talk audibly, however, walking about in your room.’ The discourses were to be sent to Mill, who would be ‘the representative of an audience, of a public’.2 By 26 October Mill had heard from Ricardo that he was about to begin writing,3 and by 18 November, having returned to London, he had received and read two discourses.4 A third discourse was written shortly after, according to a letter from Mill of 4 December, but does not appear to have been sent to Mill.5
The fact that the Defence of the Ballot is in the form of a parliamentary speech suggests that Ricardo wrote it for a fictitious debate on a Bill for the Reform of Parliament in which he imagined himself to be taking part,1 attributing to previous speakers the objections which were then current.2
NOTES ON WESTERN’S ‘SECOND ADDRESS TO THE LANDOWNERS’, 1822
Amongst the pamphlets from Ricardo’s library which are in the Goldsmiths’ Library of the University of London, there is a copy of the Second Address to the Landowners of the United Empire, by C. C. Western, Esq., M.P., second edition, London, Ridgway, 1822, which is annotated by Ricardo.1 The pamphlet was first published late in 1822, when Ricardo was on his continental tour;2 by the end of the year, when Ricardo returned to England, a second edition had appeared; and his notes must have been written after his return.3
The pamphlet contains a violent attack against Peel’s Act of 1819 and against the supporters of the resumption of cash payments. It was referred to by Ricardo in a speech on Western’s motion respecting the resumption of cash payments, on 11 June 1823 (above, p. 317 ff.), when he replied to Western’s accusations.
Ricardo’s notes are written on the margins of the pamphlet and have been partly cut off by the binder. They are here printed in italics.
Ricardo’s first comment is occasioned by Western’s discussion of the ‘inconsiderate and hasty course’ which led to the resumption of cash payments in 1819, as proposed by Peel’s Committee. ‘Of the probable consequences of such a course upon the general prosperity of the country,’ writes Western, ‘the Committees of the Lords and Commons, incredible as it may appear, not only made no adequate enquiry, but seemed purposely to turn their backs upon information tendered, and prophetic warnings given by persons who possessed the fairest claims to attention.’ (p. 5.) Ricardo notes: ‘This Committee recommended a recurrence [to]1Cash payments after a period of 4 years. When [they] did so gold was £4.2.—pr. oz. Mr. Western sup[por]ted a measure which was to make us recur to Cash [payments in a single day] altho’ gold was then £4.15.—p[r. oz.]’.2
Western then discusses the effects upon the agricultural situation of the measures respecting the currency: ‘Peel’s Bill, I say, is the sole cause of our excessive and unparalleled distress. [Ricardo underlines ‘sole’ and notes: ‘Take notice sole cause! ’] It is not that abundant harvests may not lower the price of corn occasionally to some degree of temporary injury to the growers; but no human being ever heard before of their being ruined by the blessing of Providence on their labours.... It is not a ruinous abundance of corn, but a destructive famine of money that is the bane of the country’ (pp. 6–7). Ricardo notes: ‘See Mr. Western speech 1 March 1816, in which he shews the effects of abundance on price.’3
Western’s remedy is the revision of Peel’s Bill of 1819 and the lowering of the standard, in order to obtain a more abundant currency. The effect would be an advanced money price of commodities, but, he asks, what mischief therefrom? ‘The mortgagee would prefer paying higher for his wheat, and his mutton, &c. with the continuance of an interest of five per cent. for his money. The fundholder would enjoy in security, and upon a good title, what he possessed, instead of risking it by a robbery of the public [Ricardo notes: ‘[R]obbery!’], which can be retained only by force, and not by right. The labourer would again perceive that his labour, which is his property, had some value [Ricardo twice underlines ‘some ’ and notes: ‘[H]as it no [v]alue now? ’]; he would soon find an eager demand for it in the market; and wages, like all other commodities for which there is an increasing demand, would experience a consequent advance.’ (p. 24.) Ricardo notes: ‘[W]hy should an [al]teration in [the] value of [mo]ney cause [an] increased [de]mand for [la]bour? ’
Western quotes Hume in his support: ‘Give us a sufficient currency, and we should be in the situation which Mr. Hume in his Essay upon Money, written nearly 100 years ago, describes a country in which money began to flow more abundantly. “Every thing,” he says, “takes a new face—labour and industry gain life— the merchant becomes more enterprising—the manufacturer more diligent and skilful—and the farmer follows the plough with more alacrity and attention.” ... We are in the situation in which Mr. Hume, contrasting his former picture, shews us, of a country in which the quantity of money is decreasing. “The workman,” he says, “has not the same employment from the manufacturer and merchant—the farmer cannot sell his corn and cattle—the poverty, beggary, and sloth thatmust ensue, are easilyfore-seen.”’ (pp. 24–5.) Ricardo notes: ‘An erroneous view of Mr. Hume’.
On Western’s incidental remark, that ‘A further increased quantity of currency has recently taken place by the advance of about two millions to the Government by the Bank, to make the payments to the 5 per cent. creditors’ (p. 26), Ricardo notes: ‘[Id]eny [t]his.’
Western then considers the question whether the people at large would be sufferers from the rise in prices consequent upon the suggested abundance of money. He admits that when high prices are the consequence of scarcity, they must be ‘considered amongst the most severe inflictions to which a people are subject’ (p. 31). But, ‘High price from abundance of money is purely nominal; as if shillings were rained down from heaven, it would very soon require a great number of them to purchase a loaf of bread, and the price would be high; or if sixpences were proclaimed to be shillings, we should nominally pay as many shillings as we do now sixpences. But from high price so caused, or rather low value of money, no evil follows, no alteration of course takes place in the relative proportion of food, to the number of mouths there are to consume it. The bulk of the people must have an increased quantity of money, before the sellers can obtain the higher price, the demand of the opulent classes being too trifling, hardly indeed varying at all. I have often wished that some of those persons, who keep up the fallacy respecting a high money price, would tell me why the people should not be able to obtain as ample a share of the larger quantity of money as of the smaller; this is the point, which if truth were their object, they would see they were bound to make out, and for their own credit, I earnestly invite them for once, at least, fairly and calmly to make the attempt.’ (p. 31.) Ricardo notes: ‘I do not dispute the principle here laid down but I ask in my turn what injury the people w[ould] suffer if the quantity of money was reduced o[ne] half or three fourths. It is entirely a question.’1
Western continues: ‘Now when debts and taxes are considered, the advantage of a high money price becomes as apparent as the destructive consequences of the lower measure of value are now....The farmer with 40s. for his quarter of wheat, and the labourer with his 8s. per week, must feel the excessively increased difficulty of paying the same taxes as they did when the wheat produced 80s., and the labour 16s. The former are indeed sinking under it, and their labourers participate, as of necessity they must, in the distress of their employers. The renewed burnings in many parts of England, with the resolutions of societies of farmers, published in the newspapers, against the use of thrashing machines, are sufficient proofs that the agricultural labourers are reduced, in those districts at least, to a state of acute misery.’ (pp. 31–2.) Ricardo notes: ‘very sophistical. When wheat is at 40/- the labourer will not receive the same money wages as when it is at 80/-. If the real value of the farmer’s taxation as a grower be increased he can [pass on] that increase to the consumer.’
Western gives an illustration to show that the effect of a rise in the value of money on debtors is out of proportion to the effect of a fall upon creditors: ‘suppose a man with an income of two hundred per annum, arising from the efforts of industry in the production of any species of commodities, and that a portion of his capital is borrowed, the interest of which amounts to one hundred per annum—raise the value of money one half [Ricardo underlines the last seven words and notes: ‘Do you not mean, “double the value of money? ”’], his commodities can only return half their money price, that is to say, one hundred pounds per annum, and this industrious man is obviously left wholly destitute; but this is not all—the creditor receiving only, it is true, the same nominal sum, nevertheless obtains that which enables him to possess himself of twice the quantity of the industrious man’s commodities; in truth he seizes the whole property of his debtor: now lower the value of money and let us see what follows; the industrious man pays the debt with half the quantity of his commodities, their money value being doubled, and his creditor retaining the same nominal sum, can only command half of them; this is horrid injustice: but the man is not left destitute; he retains half his income; there is exactly the difference between the half and the whole’ (p. 34). Ricardo notes: ‘Because the degree of variation is less. In one case you raise the value of £1- to £2- in the other you lower the value of £1- to 10/-’1
Western proceeds: ‘As to calculating the effects of raising or lowering the value of money, without reference to debtors and creditors, it would be absurd; because we know the vast extent of public and private debts, and because all our national establishments, civil and military, are charges upon national industry, and as such, operate as debts; the Monarch and the private soldier, the First Lord of the Treasury, and the lowest Clerk in office, are alike in the predicament of creditors; they suffered by lowering the value of money, but were not ruined [Ricardo notes: ‘fallaci[ous]’]; their suffering was acknowledged and alleviated, if not removed, but they are now, in conjunction with public and private creditors, absorbing the entire fruits of the industry of the country’ (p. 35).
There are no comments on Western’s text after p. 35, but Ricardo underlines certain passages (as reproduced below) which are obviously directed against himself. It is to these charges that he replied in his speech of 11 June 1823 (above, p. 317 ff.).
‘The more I reflect upon the state of this country, its immense public debt and taxes, its unrivalled complication of private debts and engagements, the more I am astonished that the idea should ever have suggested itself to the mind of any Statesmen, to raise the value of the money in which they were created; the measure certainly owes its origin, in chief, to men who were gainers or expectant gainers by it; namely, Ministers receiving salaries from the public, others who wish to be Ministers, and some great monied proprietors were called in, who were supposed to be specially qualified to advise upon such a subject. Difficult, however, as it is to account for such an extraordinary proceeding, I do not entertain a suspicion of any selfish motives on the part of the Ministers or their rivals; and I try to believe the same of the great monied men; but when I see public creditors and mortgagees swallowing up the rents of the landowners, the profits of the tenant, and the general fruits of industry, it requires the fullest effort of charity to believe they did not intend it; if we allow them to be honest, they must all of them be content to be regarded by us sufferers, as extremely ignorant of the subject they not only pretended fully to understand, but exclusively to be the only competent judges of. They told us at first that Peel’s Bill would only produce a difference of three or four per cent. in the money price of commodities; they have now nearly admitted its operation to the extent of fifteen or twenty, which of itself must be allowed to be proof sufficient of ignorance at all events: but the actual amount of degradation is in fact much nearer fifty per cent. than twenty.’ (pp. 36–7.)
‘Some of you have estates which were in cultivation centuries ago, and which now yield nothing: to preserve them in cultivation at all, without any rent, is in various instances actually a burthen. [Ricardo writes three exclamation marks on the margin.] ... Why will you not investigate the question? why give up the exercise of your own understanding? why surrender up common sense to the parade of science? Believe me, the economists and bullionists are not gifted with more sense than other people, though they have more pedantry; their confidence and pretensions are imposing certainly, and I do believe have imposed upon some of our more ingenuous Statesmen; but the mist in which they have involved the subject is disappearing, and the dreadful consequences brought upon us by their advice are fully exposed to view; the practical illustration before our eyes of the terrible mistake the Government has been led into, can hardly longer be denied.’ (pp. 39–41.)
‘No. 5 [of the tables in the Appendix] shews the amount of undue gain of the public creditors, by the alteration of the currency through Peel’s Bill, and which is a distinct breach of faith on the part of the Government towards the people of this country, and a palpable robbery. It really appears to me, that our Statesmen, on either side the House, evince by their conduct, a want of any just comprehension of faith towards the public, who pay taxes. I should have thought their first care, at all events the first care of the House of Commons, should have been, that the public should not pay morethan they borrowed.It is hardly denied by any body, that, at this time, the public are compelled to pay substantially, to the extent of twenty or twenty-five per cent. more than they borrowed, and not one word of complaint is uttered by those guardians of the public purse. It is only for the creditors, and all who receive taxes, that they appear solicitous; and for the preservation of sacred faith towards whom, we hear so much canting declamation.... If these observations find their way to the public, I shall of course undergo the censure of those arrogant pretenders to exclusive good faith; but it is high time to speak out, or we shall be inevitably crushed.’ (pp. 44–5.)
Western reprints in an Appendix a ‘Letter upon the Cause of the Distress in Ireland’, to the editor of the Dublin Morning Post, signed ‘A Native of Connaught’ and dated ‘Killcongoll, July 15, 1822.’; on this letter Ricardo comments: ‘According to this letter, the ruin of the poor tenant is caused by the increased value paid to some of the persons who have an interest in the land. If he retain less of the produce they get more—this will not account for scarcity in the country, nor for the high price of potatoes. What I contend for is that there is no anomaly in a glut of wheat from abundance, and a starving population, when that population lives exclusively on the potatoe.’
[1 ]Hansard, XXXII, 41; cp. also ib. 381.
[2 ]Journals of the House of Commons, 1818, p. 272.
[1 ]Hansard, XXXVIII, 995–6.
[2 ]See his speech above, p. 109.
[3 ]See above, p. 323.
[4 ]The Report and Evidence were reprinted in April 1821 (Parliamentary Papers, 1821, vol. iv).
[1 ]1814 (54 Geo. III c. 99), 1815 (55 Geo. III c. 28), 1816 (56 Geo. III c. 40), 1818 (58 Geo. III c. 37).
[2 ]Minute of the Committee of Treasury, 20 Jan. 1819, in Lords’ Report, Appendix, p. 300.
[3 ]Hansard, XXXIX, 72 and 104.
[1 ]Journals of the House of Commons, 1818–19, pp. 64 and 77.
[2 ]Journals of the House of Lords, 1818–19, p. 43.
[3 ]See Ricardo’s letters to McCulloch of May 1819, quoted below, p. 367–8, and of January 1822, below, IX, 141.
[4 ]Below, VI, 67.
[1 ]The editor is much indebted to the late Sir Bernard Mallet for allowing him to quote this and many other passages from the unpublished MS in his possession.
[2 ]A Director of the Bank, at this time out by rotation.
[3 ]Alexander Baring was the head of the house of Baring Brothers, the magnitude of whose loans to the French Government in 1818 and 1819 complicated the problem of the resumption of cash payments. Baring himself was in Paris during the early stages of the enquiry, when the examination of the witnesses seemed to proceed somewhat aimlessly; a focal point was provided when, on his return to London at the end of February, Baring’s views in favour of a delayed resumption of payments on Ricardo’s plan became known. In the subsequent debate in the Commons the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to Baring’s evidence as ‘certainly the most important of any’ (Hansard, XL, 739). And The Times in a leader remarked ‘We wish that the Bank had been able to control Mr Baring’s loans, rather than Mr Baring’s loans had controlled the Bank’ (18 May1819). Mallet records in his MS Diary a conversation with Baring in which the latter described his intricate financial operations in Paris and surmises that Baring was apprehensive of an early resumption: ‘Narrower means of credits, a closer system of discounts, a return to a sound currency in this great commercial country, could not fail affecting all Europe for a time; and it is for a time, and for that very time, that Baring wants facilities of every kind.’ (Entry of 2 March 1819.)
[1 ]Friday 12 and Monday 15 February.
[1 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 44, Q. 35.
[2 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 47, Q. 52.
[1 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 78.
[1 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, pp. 123–4.
[2 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 107, Q. 35.
[3 ]Below, VIII, 19.
[1 ]It should be noticed that, in spite of Ricardo’s own evidence, the Committees assumed throughout that his plan excluded payments in specie.
[2 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 160.
[1 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 171.
[2 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 189.
[1 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 191. When recalled on 25 March Baring confirmed this answer; see ib. p. 204.
[2 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 224–5.
[3 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 247.
[1 ]Not to be identified with Ricardo’s friend of the same name.
[2 ]A Reply to Mr. Ricardo’s Proposals for an Economical and Secure Currency, by Thomas Smith, London, Richardson, 1816.
[3 ]Commons’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, pp. 257–9.
[1 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, pp. 131–2, Q. 167. Later he was questioned about the period in which ‘the Plan of Mr. Ricardo’ could be carried into effect (p. 136–7).
[2 ]Author, under the pseudonym of Daniel Hardcastle, of a series of letters to The Times on the Bank Restriction; see below, VIII, 3, n. 1.
[3 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 158–9, Q. 79.
[4 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 179–80, Q. 83.
[5 ]ib. p. 180, Q. 84.
[1 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 180–1, Q. 89.
[2 ]Above, I, 372.
[1 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 182, Q. 89.
[2 ]Journals of the House of Lords, 1818–1819, pp. 147 and 157.
[3 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 221, Q. 88.
[4 ]Lords’ Report, ‘Minutes of Evidence’, p. 222, Qq. 96 and 97.
[5 ]ib. pp. 225–34.
[1 ]ib. p. 243–4.
[2 ]See Ricardo’s speech supporting the bill, above, p. 2.
[3 ]Below, VIII, 20.
[1 ]See An Address to the Public on the Plan Proposed by the Secret Committee of the House of Commons for Examining the Affairs of the Bank, by Edward Cooke, London, Stockdale, 1819.
[2 ]Speech of 24 May 1819, Hansard, XL, 677.
[3 ]The meeting on 15 May 1819 at the City of London Tavern, held to oppose the Reports of the Committees.
[1 ]Commons’ ‘Second Report’, p. 15.
[1 ]Lords’ ‘Second Report’, p. 18–19.
[1 ]Below, VIII, 26–7.
[2 ]The text of the Resolutions is given above, p. 7–8.
[3 ]59 Geo. III. c. 49. An amendment to the original bill had been adopted on Ellice’s motion; see above, p. 8 and n.
[4 ]The New Times, 15 May 1819.
[5 ]The Automaton Chess-Player was on exhibition at No. 4 Spring Garden (Advt. in The Times, 6 Feb. 1819).
[6 ]The Fair Circassian was the name popularly applied to a lady in the suite of the recently arrived Persian Ambassador. Much curiosity had been aroused by the seclusion in which she was kept; ‘hundreds of loungers and dandies’ crowded outside the Embassy in the vain hope of a glimpse of her. ‘The door of her room is constantly guarded by two black eunuchs, who have sabres by their sides. They are her only attendants, being selected to dress and undress her.’ (The Times, 30 April 1819.)
[7 ]The New Times, 15 June 1819.
[1 ]Letter from E. B. Wilbraham, 7 Feb. 1820, in Diary and Correspondence of Charles Abbot, Lord Colchester, 1861, vol. iii, p. 113. Cp. Tooke’s History of Prices, vol. ii, p. 98–9, and Ricardo’s speech of 8 Feb. 1821, above, p. 76.
[1 ]The title of the Commons’ Reports is: ‘Reports from the Secret Committee on the Expediency of The Bank resuming Cash Payments, Ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed, 5 April and 6 May 1819.’
[1 ]Below, pp. 508–10.
[2 ]‘Ricardo in Parliament’, Economic Journal, June 1894, p. 251, reprinted in Cannan’s The Economic Outlook, 1912, p. 91.
[3 ]Below, p. 511–12.
[4 ]Letter of 25 May 1818, below, VII, 263.
[1 ]Letter from Trower, 7 June 1818, below, VII, 268, and to Trower, 27 June 1818, ib. 275.
[2 ]Below, VII, 285, 298–9.
[3 ]Above, pp. 112 and 283.
[4 ]Below, VII, 272–3.
[5 ]Below, p. 504–5.
[6 ]Observations, below, p. 499; and cp. to Trower, 27 June and 20 Dec. 1818, below, VII, 273 and 369–70.
[7 ]Below, p. 501.
[8 ]As evidence of how fully the ruling classes had recovered their self-confidence by 1823, a passage from a speech of Robinson, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, describing ‘the condition of those great masses of our population which are congregated in the manufacturing districts’, may be quoted: ‘What was the state of that population three or four years ago, when they laboured under the severe pressure of acknowledged distress, and what is its actual condition? Where is the disquietude, the tumult, the sedition, the outrage of that period? Vanished. What have we in their place? Peace, order, content and happiness.’ (Speech on the Financial Situation of the Country, 21 Feb. 1823; Hansard, N.S., VIII, 201.)
[1 ]Below, VII, 301.
[2 ]ib. 302.
[3 ]ib. 317.
[4 ]ib. 329. Mill promised ‘a more detailed criticism’, but no such criticism is extant. The tenour of the other letters leaves little doubt that reform was the subject of the discourses.
[5 ]ib. 349–50, 358, 364.
[1 ]He may have had before him the report of the debate in the House of Commons on 2 June 1818, on the Resolutions for the Reform of Parliament which had been drafted by Bentham and introduced by Sir Francis Burdett. See Hansard, XXXVIII, 1118– 1185 and cp. Bentham’s Works, ed. by Bowring, vol. x, p. 491 ff.
[2 ]Thus cp. the passage in the Defence of the Ballot that ‘One Hon. Gentleman has observed, that he is prepossessed in favour of open voting, without being able to give any reason why he prefers it’ (below, p. 512) with the allusion to the opponents of the ballot in a letter to Trower of 18 Sept. 1818: ‘I have never heard any solid reasons for their objections:—they are all to be resolved to an antipathy, for which they can give no account’ (below, VII, 299).
[1 ]Bound with other pamphlets in vol. vi of the Ricardo Collection of Tracts. The notes are here reproduced by kind permission of the Goldsmiths’ Librarian.
[2 ]Ricardo left London on 12 July 1822; the first edition of the pamphlet was advertised in the Morning Chronicle of 9 Nov. 1822.
[3 ]On 23 Nov. 1822 Ricardo had written from Paris that he expected to be ‘the object of much personal attack’ from the country gentlemen. See below, X, 349.
[1 ]Cut off by the binder here and below.
[2 ]On Western’s attitude in 1811 see above, p. 316.
[3 ]See the quotation from Western’s speech of 7 (not 1) March 1816, above, p. 318–19.
[1 ]The remainder of the note is cut off by the binder.
[1 ]The remainder of the note is cut off by the binder.