237.: malthus to ricardo2[Reply to 233.—Answered by 240] - 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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malthus to ricardo
[Reply to 233.—Answered by 240]
E I Coll Decr. 3rd 1817
My dear Sir,
It was by no means my intention to allow your kind letter to remain so long unanswered; but just as I should naturally have thought of writing, our examinations began, and I have been immersed in papers almost ever since. Our term has been shortened a fortnight, and our vacation therefore commences so much earlier. The Directors come down the day after tomorrow, and we shall be then dismissed for six weeks, instead of a month as usual. This change it is hoped will be favourable to peace and quiet. As far as the experiment has yet been tried it has fully answered.
I am much pleased to find that there is so little of my Additions in which you differ from me. I have looked carefully at the passages to which you refer, and am inclined to think that the principal causes of our differences on these points, are, as might be expected, your peculiar opinions, in which I cannot yet acquiesce. I must still consider the necessaries of life as the real wages of labour ; and cannot yet look upon production in the same light as demand. But it was just after I received your letter when I examined the passages, and I am not now quite au fait with regard to all the particulars.
It is impossible I think to doubt that profits have been low, as well as interest during the last two or three years. What destroyed so much agricultural capital, but low profits or rather no profits? and what occasioned so much distress among merchants and manufacturers but a want of demand and fall of prices? Variations in general prices are unquestionably much more common, than variations in value arising from different quantities of labour imployed in producing corn; but such variations of prices, or of the circulating if you please, begin in my opinion perpetually with a rise in the price of corn, and proceed successively, and not immediately, to other commodities. This has certainly been the case with us, during the last 25 years; and I am strongly disposed to believe, that for nearly the last century or at least for 80 or 90 years, no marked increase has taken place in the quantity of labour necessary to produce corn at home. It is your frequent reference to causes which operate only in an inconsiderable degree, or in an unusual state of things, in accounting for great and striking phenomena which are actually occurring, that gives an air of paradox to some of your opinions. The increase in the labour of growing corn has certainly had little or nothing to do with the increase in its price of late years; and surely it would be most unsafe and incorrect to draw any conclusions respecting the rate of profits from the assumption that prices remain the same, in the midst of continual variations in the circulating medium which you yourself acknowledge.
The question I put to you in my last letter was intended to imply the absolute incompatibility of an abundant capital with high profits; and to shew that profits depend entirely upon the competition of capital, or the state of capital compared with labour, and not on the state of the land. The high relative price of labour is an effect, and not an original cause. I am meditating a volume as I believe I have told you, and I want to answer you, without giving my work a controversial air. Can you tell me how to manage this.
We are going into Surrey for about a fortnight or 3 weeks. If you write within that time direct to me Weston House Guildford. Are you likely to be in Town soon. Mrs. M desires to be kindly remembered to Mrs. Ricardo.
Ever truly Yours
T. R. Malthus.