mill to ricardo
[Reply to 188, 189 & 193.—Answered by 196]
Ford Abbey 16th. Decr. 1816
My Dear Sir
I have now gone over your inquiry into the subject of Taxation, with the same care as the former part of the work. I have also the pleasure to tell you that I am equally well satisfied. Now for the first time is the real operation of taxes explained; for this was a part of his subject on which Adam Smith was superficial, and added not a great deal to the knowledge of the world. Your doctrines are original, and profound, for it was by no means an easy matter to get down to them; and I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that they are fully and completely made out. I embrace every one of them; and am ready to defend them against all the world. In this part however, there will be rather more to do in fitting it for the press, than in the other. I do not mean that you do not here shew the same command of good expression as in the former; for that is a thing in which there is now not any danger of your ever failing. But in this I see you have followed the order of your own thoughts, without much studying the order which would most facilitate introduction into the minds of your readers. In preparing it for the press, that is the principal thing which you will have to study. And in that I shall perhaps be able to give you some assistance. I have marginal contents of the whole, paragraph by paragraph, and shall study them at leisure with that view.
In preparing your book, the question for you to determine is—whether you will chuse to include in it a view of the whole science; so as you would lay it down to a person whom you was teaching, and who knew nothing about it; so as you would state the whole from beginning to end to Miss Fanny, for example, if she should entreat you, as I hope she will, to teach her the science of political economy: Or, whether you will content yourself with those parts of the science which you yourself have improved. In the first way, you would be most useful; but I rather think you will get most reputation in the last. You might, too, if you saw advantage in it, give a view of the whole science, as modeled upon your own principles, and taught to Miss Fanny (I beg her pardon, Miss Ricardo)—hereafter. In that case, what title would you give to the present work? And how would you arrange it in Chapters and Sections? Think of your Chapters and Sections; and when you have made out a list, send it to me.
With regard to those parts of Adam Smith, where his opinions are at variance with your principles, I think you are called upon to take notice of his errors. The doctrine of bounties, and prohibitions, on which there is so much error in the world, you should work fully—so of colonies. In fact I would not have you sparing on this ground; but chiefly, nevertheless, attaching yourself to the errors which the application of your principles illustrates and exposes.
I rather think I would quote Say in English, and certainly I should not fail to point out his errors; though with that respectfulness of manner to which he is entitled. In noticing the errors of Buchanan, credit should be given him where he has seen the truth. But you are not at all called upon to go out of your way, to mention the cases in which he has avoided error. In the places where you criticize A. S., if he criticizes him in the same way, then you should allow him what credit he deserves. In regard to all these parts, when you do not think it necessary to notice A. Smith, neither would I notice the comment, right or wrong, of Mr. Buchanan. Mr. B appears to me a very feeble reasoner, and not likely to do the science much good. In his reasoning, for example, to prove that wages would not rise, in consequence of a tax, (at p. 98 of your M.S.) he states four propositions, as the matter of his proof. Now of these four propositions, the two first, instead of tending to support his conclusion, refute it; the third begs the question; the fourth affirms a false fact. You have shewn completely that his conclusion is wrong. But you have not taken any notice of the extreme badness of the reasoning. This, I think, it will be necessary to do, that you may not seem not to have been aware of the degree of the badness.
You must go on putting down, upon paper, all the discussions which you think will be fitted for your work; and when we have the whole before us, we will then lay our heads together, to see how it may be sorted and shaped to the best advantage. As soon as you have got another cargo, you will send it to me.—We shall be here till the time parliament meets. You, if in the same mind as last year, will be in town a month earlier.
Accept my sincere congratulations on the happy transit of Mrs. Clutterbuck through the first of her trials. I was happy to hear of her pregnancy, as a proof that her health was getting stronger, than it has been since her marriage.
I have now another circumstance to mention, in which if you can be of any service, I know it will give you pleasure to be so. A little time ago, I received a letter from a lady in Scotland, who supposed I was acquainted with Sir Benjamin Hobhouse. She is the widow of a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, who was a college companion, and a particular friend of mine. The husband died a few years ago, and left her with four children, and hardly any provision. She is an Englishwoman, of a very good family, with a genteel education, and accustomed to very good company from her birth. Her family, while her father lived, who died nearly about the same time with her husband, resided at Clapham, and in terms of intimacy with the best people there, Henry Thorntons family, for example, and Barclay, the Brewer. At Barclays I have visited with them. This lady, sometime ago was advised by her friends to undertake the charge of some daughters of gentlemen in the East Indies, sent home for education, and who want the superintendance of a mother. I know nobody who is better qualified for the task: and if I needed to consign my daughters to any care but my own; there is not a person on earth whom I would more wish them to be with than with her. She is, indeed, a truly admirable person, in every respect—the greatest sweetness of disposition I have almost ever known, with the gentlest manners, and at the same time great good sense, and great firmness and steadiness of character. Placed in very trying circumstances, she has gained the hearts of all who know her, people of all ranks in Edinr., where eyes are prying, and minds not easily pleased; and respected in the highest degree. She has heard of four grand daughters of Sir Benjamin Hobhouse, the children of a Mr. Palmers in India, for whom a guardian is wanted. I see by looking at her letter that the children are not the grand daughters, though related to Sir Benjamin. She has been recommended by the family of Dr. Saunders, who was married to her aunt, to Sir Benjamin. Sir Benjamin has been spoken to from other quarter. Charles Grant, the E. India director, is a patron of Mrs. Savile (that is the ladys name) and will satisfy Sir B. as to her fitness. As she wrote to me, supposing that I knew Sir B., which I do not, I am anxious to do for her any thing that is in my power; and knowing the connection there is between the Clutterbucks and the Bart. I resolved to request that you would get them at any rate to represent Mrs. Saviles case and pretensions; which is all I can think of that is within my power. In the mean time you will be serving a person whom you would very much like, if you knew her; and who has great need of assistance.
I coincide with your judgement, as I do in almost all things else, in your declining Worcester. If I were in your situation, the rottenest Borough I could find would be my market, with nothing to do but to part with a sum of money. I am however, very much in earnest that you should be in parliament. That, along with your book, will add to your rank, and that of your family, in a remarkable degree. You deserve it—you ought to have it—and that is the way to attain it. You will not let me add, that you may be of great use to the cause of good government, and may render important service against the cause of bad; which I know you would value more than any rank, or any wealth. But this is what you both can and will.
I send off the M.S. to day addressed to Mr. Clutterbuck. And I shall this day finish revising the first vol. of my history. I was comforted yesterday by a declaration in a letter I had from Sir J. Mackintosh, that he found narrative a much more difficult species of composition than he had any conception of; because I had found so to a painful degree. You will be glad to hear that he is better in health than he has been since he came to England.