24.: mill to ricardo 1[Reply to 23] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 6 Letters 1810-1815.
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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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mill to ricardo
[Reply to 23]
Barrow Green House Godstone—Surry Octr. 15 th. 1811
My dear Sir
As I foresee that there will be certain points to clear up between us when we meet, I have thought that such of them as it appeared to me that I could, without overloading you with too many words, clear up beforehand, it might be as well to have removed out of the way.
As to the things which I have not done and which you say you wish I had done, these I shall leave till another time.
There are two things to which you object, 1. the having talked of “the value of the precious metals” without having defined the word value; and 2. the having said that the importation of corn stops at the point where the value of gold and silver rises above its value in other countries.
1. By the value of the precious metals in any country I mean uniformly their value as compared with the commodities of the country. And when I say that the precious metals are of an equal value in all countries, I mean that they are of an equal value in respect to commodities, account being taken of the expence of transmitting the commodities from one to another of the places which are the subject of comparison. Thus, for example, every body would say that the precious metals are of an uniform value all over Great Britain; yet there are places in Great Britain where a family can live at one half of the expence at which it can live in some other places, the difference being constituted entirely by the expence of the carriage of the commodities which form the grand articles of expenditure.—By the price of the precious metals, I mean the quantity of the currency of any nation, which happens to be given for a definite weight of them.
2. To your next objection I cannot answer so clearly, because I do not recollect so distinctly my own doctrine. You say that the rising of the value of gold and silver above the level of other countries would not stop the importation of corn, because there might be other articles still to give in exchange for corn, which articles might be cheaper. But, if I recollect right, it appears certainly enough by the very argument, that this is precisely the circumstance which could not exist; that gold and silver could not rise above the level of other countries by the purchase of corn, while there was any thing cheaper to give for the corn. My recollection of the argument is already extremely indistinct, as I did not attend to it so much as to fix it in any degree in my memory; and to recall it I must re-invent the whole chain of thought. But I beg you to look into the argument with this view, and see if the matter be not as I now suppose. If it be not, it appears to me just now that it may certainly be proved, that there could be no such cheapness of commodities, in the case of the rise in the value of the bullion which is supposed.
As to the use of the word demand, I follow Dr. Smith’s rule, which is to call it effectual demand, as often as it means the will to purchase combined with the power. In a year of great scarcity a nation may be said to have a demand for its usual quantity of corn; though it may be unable to purchase, by a considerable proportion, so large a quantity.
So much for your objections. None of them, I think, even in your opinion impair the conclusiveness of the argument. The only question for us is—whether the argument, being conclusive, has any thing in its mode of being put, which is more likely to silence our adversaries, and convince those who are not our adversaries, than the mode in which it has been put by any other body. I should not be easily persuaded, to take all the trouble about it that would be necessary to fit it for the press. What I mean is, that I should not do so, unless I thought that considerable good was to be done by it. By the bye, if you have any body at hand, on whose knowledge of the subject one could place reliance, you might offer them a reading of it, Sharpe, for instance, or Malthus, without saying whose it is—that by their opinion we might help to shape our own.
I know not what to say about your removal to the West end of the town. I like not to live there myself. I hope you mean not to set forward in the career of fashionable life; which is a source of misery not of happiness even to those who pursue it; which is gone into by one half of its votaries to escape from ennui, by another half in the wretched contest of who shall appear to be richest, to have most to spend; and some are dragged into it from mere listlessness and indolence, from an unwillingness to take the trouble of resisting the torrent. One consequence of such a course of life, which in your case I should tremble to think of, is so general as to be almost unavoidable, that the children are brought up with minds thoroughly incapable of happiness, without resources in themselves, and totally dependent on the accidents which govern the sort of life to which they have been habituated. This however is preaching—and I hate preaching, which was never more useless than it is on the present occasion—As for its impertinence, preachers have a title to be impertinent. If I were in a pulpit you would love me the better, the worse I should tell you that I thought of you. Moreover, in regard to the training of children to the best chance of happiness, as I have much attended to it, I hold myself a little entitled to speak, and yours are children who deserve attention to be bestowed upon them, and will repay it.
We shall not be in town till the very end of the month. If any thing occurs to you in the mean time to say to me, let me know it. Mrs. Mill, (who begs her best respects, along with mine, to Mrs. Ricardo &.c. &.c. &.c.) and the little ones are in thriving condition—and I am my dear Sir with much esteem and regard
I forgot to tell Mr. Bentham I was writing to you, and he is gone to bed