83.: ricardo to malthus1[Reply to 82.—Answered by 84] - 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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ricardo to malthus
[Reply to 82.—Answered by 84]
London 17 Mch. 1815
My dear Sir
If your statement was correct this extravagant consequence would follow from it, that in proportion as population increased and worse land was brought under cultivation, the proportion of produce to the corn expences of procuring it would increase. If we now had 20 millions of quarters with an expence of 5 millions of quarters, we should when we expended 10 millions of quarters obtain more than 40, notwithstanding that in the latter period many more than double the quantity of hands were employed in cultivation, in consequence of the poorer quality of the land. If this be true the principle of population is false, because the more you increase the people the greater surplus of abundance will appear. Your statement is however very ingenious, and carries a great deal of plausibility with it; but I think you err in supposing it possible that the proportion of the whole corn expenditure, to the produce obtained, can fall, with an increase of the price of corn. The two are incompatible,— either the whole corn expences of production will be increased or not. If they be the price of corn will rise,—but if they be not I can see no reason for a rise in the price of corn. I admit that it is only the last portion of capital employed on the land which will be attended with an increased corn expence, but unless it renders the whole produce together at an increased expence the price of produce will not rise.
Suppose the produce of the country 10 millions of quarters, with the price at £4 pr. quarter, the number of labourers employed 2½ millions, each receiving 2 quarters of corn annually as wages. Suppose too that the population increases, and 5 millions of quarters more are required, but that it can not be obtained with less labour than that of 2 millions of men. If we suppose the price to increase in proportion to the number of men employed, it will rise to £4. 16, because to raise 10 millions of quarters an average of 3 millions of men would be now required instead of 2½ millions. Suppose now each man to consume one quarter annually for food, and to exchange the remainder for other necessaries, 14 bushels will be sufficient wages for him; the expenditure of corn for wages will then be for 15 millions of produce 7,875,000 quarters and for 10 millions 5,250,000. Before it was only 5 millions, consequently the proportion of surplus produce has diminished.
In making this calculation I have very much favored your view of the question, because the price of corn would not I think rise in proportion to the greater number of men employed but to the greater amount of wages paid,—it would not therefore rise to £4. 16. but to £4. 4 because as 5 : 5¼ :: £4 : £4. 4. - but, if the price was only £4. 4 - more corn would be required by the labourer than 14 bushels that calculation being founded on a greater exchangeable value of corn.—
It appears too that your statement if true does not account for the less proportion of the population now emp[loyed on] the land, because you always suppose more men to [be emplo]yed but at less corn wages.—It can never happen I [think] that profits can fall, and encourage the cultivation of poor [land in] the manner assumed in my table, without a rise in the price of corn. It is by the rise of the price of corn that all other profits are regulated to agricultural profits. If the price of corn remained low money wages would not rise and general profits could not fall.
If it be true that capital has become more and more productive on the land, it can I think only be accounted for on the supposition that great improvements have taken place in agriculture, and that wages have been kept moderate by the improvements in those manufactures which supply the poor with the necessaries on which a part of their wages are expended.—
What a dreadful change in our political horizon has occurred within a few days. —Will it be possible to remain at peace if Bonaparte establishes himself as sovereign of France? The prospect is very gloomy. Mrs. Ricardo unites with me in kind regards to Mrs. Malthus