246.: ricardo to mill1[Reply to 245] - 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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ricardo to mill
[Reply to 245]
Gatcomb Park. 30th. Decr. 1817.
My dear Sir
You are a most accurate calculator, for your kind letter reached me just as I had closed the second volume of your book, and was commencing the third. If my approbation can give you the least satisfaction I am happy I am able to give it in as unqualified a degree to the volume I have just finished, as to that which preceded it. I wish however that I was a more competent judge, as I should then be more fully assured that the decision which I pronounced would be ratified by those who must ultimately decide on the real merits of your performance. I have little fear however of your success, and cannot anticipate from any quarter, or from any party, the sort of criticism which you appear to expect. It is probable indeed that many may not agree with your notions of government—they may think that you give too much weight to some of the motives to human action, and too little to others; but they cannot fail to acknowledge the great proof of talents which your work displays, as well as the evidence it affords of the purity of your views, and of the absence of all sinister interest. Who can deny that it leads the mind into the right track of consideration respecting the philosophy of laws and government, and the means of promoting and securing the happiness of the human race? What subject can be more important or interesting? You may be criticized, but you will not be condemned, and you will I think certainly obtain the prize which in these days is given to successful literary merit.—The narrative of the progress of the English in India has been highly instructive to me, as I was very imperfectly acquainted even with the great transactions of our countrymen in that quarter of the world. The style is very clear, and the only difficulty I find in fixing the facts on my mind, besides that which arises from a very bad memory, proceeds from the difficult names of the heroes of Indian story. Much as I am pleased with the narrative I am still more so with the reflections with which it is interspersed, to all which I have paid peculiar attention, and have marked them for further consideration.—The three last chapters are more particularly interesting. The account of Mr. Hastings government appears to me to be very ably done, and the sentence you finally pronounce upon him more lenient than he deserves. Nothing can be more atrocious than the conduct he pursued towards Nuncomar, Cheyt Sing, and the Begums, to say nothing of that towards the Nabob of Oude, Mahomed Reza Khan, and the Rajah Shitabroy.
Your account of the Supreme Court of Justice has given you an opportunity of which you have ably availed yourself to reflect on the constitution of Courts generally and the bias of judges. I never considered the establishment of the trial by Jury as a corrective to this bias, but as a security against corruption—it appears however to be so, though perhaps this is not the only advantage which results from that institution.—Do you not give too much weight to the influence of fees on the administration of justice, particularly when the fees do not increase the emoluments of the judge but of those who are appointed by the judge?—Is not the love of ease, which is natural to the judge as well as to others, a corrective against the multiplication of causes in which he (the judge) has no direct interest? The love of patronage so trifling in degree must be more than balanced by a fear of censure and the love of ease.
The friends of Mr. Fox will not be satisfied with the correction which your note gives to the text, —nor perhaps with your remarks on his India Bill. To me they mostly appear very satisfactory. The opposition made by King and people to the nomination by the House of Commons, of the Rulers of India, on the ground that such Rulers would in fact be chosen by the Minister, is an acknowledgment of the imperfect constitution of that body, and is the most conclusive argument for Reform. This is very ingeniously argued, and I do not see how it can be answered. You admit the advantage of the Directors recording, as Mr. Fox proposed, their reasons for doing or forbearing to do certain acts, provided such reasons be made public. Under Mr. Fox’s bill would not those reasons have been made public as often as Parliament chose to call for them? If Parliament neglected its duty that was no fault of the Bill. You are I think a little too severe when you speak of the rare occurrence of parliamentary influence with knowledge and talent, in all places where much either of money or power is to be enjoyed. If money and power were the only things desirable to man your conclusion could not be denied, but while public opinion and public sympathy are so much valued by all ranks of men, sufficient motives exist for the acquirement of knowledge and talent independent of the power and money which they may chance to bring along with them. Would not theory lead us to expect that the sanction of public opinion would have most weight with those who had no other object of ambition?
In the Government of so distant a country as India, connected with us as it is by very peculiar ties, there must be the greatest difficulty in securing it against misrule. The people of England, who are governors, have an interest opposed to that of the people of India, who are the governed, in the same manner as the interest of a despotic sovereign is opposed to that of his people. In both cases there are no other limits to the abuse of power but those which the Governors themselves chuse to impose. That apathy of the public which you deplore as one of the causes of bad government in the country in which almost all their interests are centered, acts with tenfold effect when the question is respecting a foreign government which is chiefly regarded as it will afford revenues and power. On the mal administration of such a government public opinion will not be very active and will therefore not much tend to the correction of abuses. I hope I shall see in your last volume your opinion of the sort of Government which it would be wise to establish for India. This would afford a practical application of your principles.—
I have only left myself room to communicate some afflicting events which have lately pressed hard on my family in London, and I am sure that you will sympathise with the sufferers. Mrs. Samuda had to witness the gradual decay by consumption of her eldest son whom she finally lost about 6 weeks since. This was not her only affliction for during his illness her youngest child was seized with fever and in a few days was consigned to the grave. The admirable manner in which she felt and endeavoured to conquer her feelings on these melancholy events endeared her more than ever to every one that knew her, but she had yet in common with the rest of her brothers and sisters another most painful trial to endure. Mr. Keyser’s affairs it appears have not lately been prosperous which had such an effect on his mind as to produce every symptom of permanent insanity. Happily however for his family this will not be his fate for after a few days of violence he was attacked with violent and frequent epileptic fits which in less than a week closed his mortal existence,—he died on saturday last. You may judge of the severe trial which his poor wife has endured. All that the kindest sympathy could bestow she has received from my excellent brothers and sisters.