236.: mill to ricardo1[Reply to 234.—Answered by 242] - 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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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 234.—Answered by 242]
Ford Abbey 3d. Decr. 1817
My Dear Sir
As I have just got my hand out of two or three jobs, I will answer your letter before I immerse it in any more. One reason, I believe, is, that my book being now all printed, and being likely to be delayed for some little time, by the makers of maps and index, I have come to the resolution of desiring Mr. Baldwin to have a copy made up for you, as it is. You can be supplied with index, and maps, and so forth, hereafter, with which the books can be bound up; and you will thus get them a couple of weeks, perhaps, the sooner; a period which, whatever it may be to your impatience, is no small one to mine, who am very anxious to hear what you think of this offspring, and whether it increases or diminishes my titles to your esteem.
I do not mean to talk to you any more about legislation, till you have read my book; because after that we shall probably find some general principles, about which we can agree, and starting from which we can go on step by step with some degree of assurance. I have no doubt about removing all your difficulties; and showing you that instead of being a science, the practical results of which must always be uncertain, rendering it always prudent to try to remain in the state we are in, rather than venture the unknown effects of a change, legislation is essentially a science the effects of which may be computed with an extraordinary degree of certainty; and the friends of human nature cannot proceed with too much energy in beating down every obstacle which opposes the progress of human welfare.
I am glad you have been reading Locke. He is admirable not so much for what he establishes, as for leading you into the track of inquiry. He associates your mind with his; and makes it open its own channels of invention. One feels in reading Locke, as if one was the author oneself of the thoughts which he makes to pass through one’s mind.
What you observe is exceedingly just as to the pleasure with which one conceives the ardent spirit of free, independent inquiry, which he recommends. How different, the spirit which breathes in his manly, philanthropic pages, and the spirit which oozes out from the gentry of your true church-and-state breed? a breed who would arrest the progress of the human mind, and exert themselves to clamour down every man who shews a desire for its advancement. This too is one of the charms in the writings of Lord Bacon, who urges men to give scope to their minds, and to travel fearlessly in whatsoever road appears to them to lead to the temple of Truth; this being the only course by which the highest improvement and felicity of the race can ever be attained. Dugald Stewart deserves praise for the same virtue.
There are undoubtedly many charms in Lockes method of dealing with an adversary. There is in the first place, and which is the foundation of all, the great perspicacity with which he discerns the flaw in the opposing argument. There is in the next place, the consummate air of good temper which attends his refutation. But I know not that you can say there is any other very remarkable virtue. And I should not agree with Mr. Horner in saying that these are all the qualities which constitute a model. There ought undoubtedly to be these qualities, and I think that these are the chief; but there ought to be others. In the first place, I think that Locke, in his controversial writings is excessively verbose, so that you lose the thread of his argument, and are often led to doubt, whether he had any thread. In the next place he heaps terms of respect upon his adversary, till they sometimes amount to affectation, though sometimes also they operate as irony, and very fine irony. And in his points of attack he makes no selection, but takes everything as it comes, and thus overloads the refutation.
I am highly delighted with your observation, that to seek to save the benevolence of a divinity, by supposing his power limited, is to run into Manicheism. It is so most assuredly; and the remark shews that you are no less capable of thinking profoundly on subjects of this class than on those of political Economy. For what is this, but to suppose that there is some power in the universe, which the Deity cannot controul, and which has a tendency to produce evil? And what did the Manicheans do, but give a name to that power: they called it Ahriman, and some of them invented a parcel of fables, which they attached to that name. Poor Mr. Malthus—If I am not mistaken, it is he who solves the difficulty about the existence of evil in this manner. What a misfortune—what a cruel misfortune, it is, for a man to be obliged to believe a certain set of opinions, whether they be fit, or not, to be believed! I too was educated to be a priest— but I shall never cease feeling gratitude to my own resolution, for having decreed to be a poor man, rather than be dishonest, either to my own mind, by smothering my convictions, or to my fellow creatures by using language at variance with my convictions. However, this is too much, indeed, in the stile of self-applause; and I should be ashamed of having needlessly run into it, if I knew not to how indulgent a correspondent I am writing. And I am not sorry you should know what I think upon those subjects, how far soever you may settle the point to which my virtues reach below the point in the scale at which my own vanity would place them. I believe this last sentence is not very intelligible. But I have no room to clarify it, if it were worth the pains.
Most truly yours