201.: ricardo to trower2[Reply to 198.—Answered by 203] - David Ricardo, The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818 
The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, ed. Piero Sraffa with the Collaboration of M.H. Dobb (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 7 Letters 1816-1818.
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ricardo to trower
[Reply to 198.—Answered by 203]
London 27 Jany. 1817
Is it not desirable that the poor laws should be done away, and the labouring classes should receive the recompence for their labour rather in the shape of wages than in that of bounty? If you answer in the affirmative then there is no way of preventing the single man from receiving more than is sufficient for his support, and I can see no reason to regret it. When the wages of a married man with a family are barely adequate to his own and his family’s maintenance, the wages of the single man may be ample. All this I admit, but if it is a necessary consequence of the abolition of the poor laws it must be acquiesced in under the circumstances of an abolition. Even if it were an evil, which I think it is not, it must be endured for the sake of the good which would accompany it.
The ill effects of the poor laws then I suppose to be admitted and their abolition to be desirable the question then is how is it to be effected? Can it be by any other means than by gradually limiting their application, by encouraging the poor man to depend on his own exertions only? Is not this to be done by refusing all relief in the first instance to any but those whose necessities absolutely require it—to administer it to them in the most sparing manner, and lastly to abolish the poor laws altogether? If the poor rates are to be resorted to not only by those who have no other means of subsisting, but by those who are possessed of property, instead of limiting their application you would extend it; instead of repressing population you would still further encourage it, and would place at a greater distance the ultimate effect which we have in view. It is a painful reflection but not less true on that account that we can never get into a good system, after so long persevering in a bad one but by much previous suffering of the poor. The population can only be repressed by diminishing the encouragement to its excessive increase,—by leaving contracts between the poor and their employers perfectly free, which would limit the quantity of labour in the market to the effective demand for it. By engaging to feed all who may require food you in some measure create an unlimited demand for human beings, and if it were not for the bad administration of the poor laws —for the occasional hard heartedness of overseers and the avarice of parishes which in a degree checks their evil effects, the population and the rates would go on increasing in a regular progression till the rich were reduced to poverty, and till there would no longer be any distinction of ranks. The particular clause then in the Savings Bank Bill must be examined in reference to its effects on the poor rates. By omitting the clause you narrow the application of the rates— you encourage a part of the population to maintain themselves and to afford a good moral example to others, and you gradually prepare the way for the adoption of a better system. The only argument of weight in favour of the clause is that without it saving will be discouraged. I cannot believe that this would be found to be the case; no man saves with the poor house in perspective. Poor and rich all have confidence in their good fortune and whilst their affairs are prosperous never dream of a reverse.
I have scarcely left myself room to thank you and Mrs. Trower for your kind congratulations to Mrs. Ricardo and me, on the birth of our grandchild. I hope you are right and that these numerous ties are calculated to increase our happiness.
I suppose I must not expect you in London for 2 or 3 months; you generally come in the gayest time. I am sorry to see our finances in so bad a state, and so turbulent a spirit abroad. We want an energetic minister possessing and meriting the confidence of the people in his talents and integrity.
I am Dear Trower, very truly Yrs.,