mill to ricardo
[Answered by 114]
Ford Abbey Chard Augt. 23. d 1815
My dear Sir
It appears to me to be high time that I were hearing something of the history of all of you. I know not how long, however, I might wait for such a thing, before you would give it to a body of your own accord. For this, as for I doubt not many other sins, you have much need of repentance and amendment of life.
Of intelligence respecting you I have not had a syllable, since the day of dining last at Chingford, where we wanted only your presence and that of your ladies, could that have been obtained, to have rendered the enjoyment complete. Mr. Bentham was highly delighted with both ladies and gentlemen, at that same place of abode; and I should have had a poor opinion of his taste, if he had not. It is not every day in this world of ours that you meet with as many people by whom you are impressed with an immediate conviction that they have some of the highest claims to your love; and who have so much of the art of compelling you to bestow it upon them. Well then, since that day, I know any thing of you by guess merely. I conclude that you remained at least a month longer in town; and that you employed it in making great quantities of money; and that you are now—Bless us all! no body can tell how rich!
Well, this much I hope from it, as you have now made quite as much money for all your family, as will be conducive to their happiness, which after all is a better thing than superiority, that, resting contented with your acquisitions of that description, you will now have leisure for other pursuits. That you will devote yourself to them, in that case, with a calm but vigorous perseverance, I have no doubt; for that is part of your nature. I should advise you to do so, if I had nothing in view but to promote the happiness of a friend; even if I had no hopes of your gaining any illustration to your name, and sharing in the dignity which does attend upon the reputation for talents, and profound knowledge of an important subject. When I am satisfied, however, that you can not only acquire that reputation, but that you can very greatly improve a science on which the progress of human happiness to a singular degree depends; in fact that you can improve so important a science far more than any other man who is devoting his attention to it, or likely to do so, for Lord knows how many years—my friendship for you, for mankind, and for science, all prompt me to give you no rest, till you are plunged over head and ears in political economy.
I have other projects upon you, however, besides. You now can have no excuse for not going into parliament, and doing what you can to improve that most imperfect instrument of government. On all subjects of political economy, you will have no match; and you express yourself on those subjects so correctly, and so clearly, that in a short time you would be a very instructive, and a very impressive speaker. Of the innumerable ways in which the parliament, as at present constituted, is an instrument of misgovernment, you have already no little knowledge; and as soon as you have more leisure for reading, or rather for meditation, the discovery will pour in upon you every day. There is not much difficulty in finding out the principles on which alone good government must of necessity depend; and when all this is as clearly in that head of yours, as that head knows how to put it, the utility in parliament, of even you, in spite of all your modesty, would be very great. You would be thoroughly honest; nothing would you do but what you purely and genuinely thought right. Upon my life, I question, (such is the manner in which improper motives are ensured in the bosoms of members of parliament, by the manner in which that assembly is constituted), I do question whether another man would be found in it, not ready to sell his country— some of them to a greater, some of them to a less extent— and almost all of them would stop, at a certain stage of treachery—but not a man is there I fear in that house, who would not compromise the good of his country in many, and these far from trifling particulars, to gain the favour of a ministry, of a party, or if despising the favour of ministers and parties, to push some other personal end. That many of them have sets of opinions conformable with their practice, I admit; which gives them an air of sincerity: but it is an easy thing to contract opinions which favour ones corrupt inclinations. When the man who is hunting after a share in the plunder of the people, adopts a set of opinions calculated to recommend him to those in whose hands is the division of the spoil, opinions the fruit of which would be to exclude good government, that is human happiness, from the face of the earth, I may not doubt the reality of his belief, but I well know from what fountain it is derived. The wish in most minds goes three parts in four to the procreation of the belief. It is curious to trace, even in those who seem to be the farthest removed from the hope of directly sharing in the plunder, by what secret links the opinions which favour misgovernment are really and in fact connected with the feelings of the plunderers; even by vain imitation; an idea that it gives them an aristocratical air, where there is not a stronger bond of connection—but in truth I have very seldom, indeed, found in real life, any man a friend to bad principles of government, who did not some way or another foster the idea of deriving advantage from them. Even when education has produced all its effects, it requires some association or another with ideas of interest to make any man a convert to doctrines which would render the whole of the human race for ever slaves, for the benefit of a few. Yet these are the doctrines which more than 99 in 100 of all the rich and great men in England perpetually preach: to such a degree by the operation of the bad principles of our government, are the intellectual and moral parts of the mind among the leading orders corrupted and depraved.
But, so, ho! who thought of this ebullition, about good government and bad government; about good national principles and bad national principles? I have left myself hardly any room to give you any of my own history. Happily it may be all given in a line—that we arrived here I fancy two months ago, or rather more—and that one day has passed almost exactly like another, all the time. We have had but few people with us. And the time has passed in a succession of study and exercise, the young as actively employed as the old. With best regards to all, and great desire to hear of all your doings believe yours,