249.: ricardo to trower2[Answered by 254] - 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 trower
[Answered by 254]
London 26 Jany. 1818
My Dear Trower
Your last kind letter reached London before I arrived there, and after performing a journey to Gatcomb, was again brought to town in my pocket on the 15th inst. I should have answered it before but I have been incessantly employed in business that required my immediate attention. I heartily wish with you that we had chanced to fix our residences near to each other, that we might in the calm of the country, have pursued those discussions which on many occasions engaged our attention even in the tumultuous scenes where we were accustomed to meet, but where we had neither leisure, nor favourable opportunities, to make them so serviceable to us as we should have done amidst groves, and fields, undisturbed by the stimulating interests which formerly engrossed us. I remember well the pleasure I felt, when I first discovered that you, as well as myself, was a great admirer of the work of Adam Smith, and of the early articles on Political Economy which had appeared in the Edinburgh Review. Meeting as we did every day, these afforded us often an agreeable subject for half an hour’s chat, when business did not engage us. Every thing that has since occurred has stimulated me to give a great deal of attention to such subjects: first, the Bullion controversy, and then my intimacy with Mill and Malthus, which was the consequence of the part I took in that question. My discussions with Malthus have been innumerable, and in my eagerness to convince him that he was wrong, on some points on which we differed, I was led into a deeper consideration of many parts of the subject than I had before given them, and though I have failed to convince him, and may not have satisfied others, I have convinced myself; and think that I have a very consistent theory in my own mind. This theory I have attempted to commit to paper that I might communicate it to others, but owing to my little knowledge of the art of composition I have not succeeded to my wish, and I now quite despair of ever knowing how to wield that admirable instrument for conveying information.
The new publication of Malthus, which I mentioned to you, is not yet in the press. It has no connection with any former work of his. Among other things it is to contain some examination of my opinions, to which I wish them to be submitted. He has a great aversion to controversy,— I hope this aversion may not induce him to withhold it. The Review of his Essay in the Quarterly is I think well done, and I am glad to see that so popular a Review is at length employed in advocating the cause of truth. The reveries of Southey on questions of Political Economy will I hope no longer be admitted in any respectable journal. He quite mistakes his talent when he writes on such subjects, and is really no more deserving of attention than Mr. Owen or any other visionary. The writer of the article in the Quarterly I suppose you know is Mr. Sumner, a clergyman, the author of a clever book on the Records of the Creation, in which Malthus’ system is not only defended for its truth, but for its affording proofs of the benevolence and goodness of the Creator. Mr. Sumner’s work was reviewed in the Quarterly, and report says that Mr. Weyland was the reviewer.—He has of course carried his own erroneous principles into the Review, and does not do the author justice.—I am sorry to hear that Mr. Sumner does not intend writing any more on Political Economy—his whole attention in future is to be devoted to the study of Theology. Whether in this latter pursuit he will have an equal chance of benefiting mankind, as in the former, I have great doubts, or rather I have no doubt at all; and I very much regret that the science will no longer be assisted by his distinguished talents.
I would gladly compound for such a change in the Poor Laws as should restore them to what appears to have been the original intention in framing them; namely, the relieving only the aged and infirm and under some circumstances, children. Any change would be an improvement which had not a tendency to increase the evil which it proposes to remedy. The present plan creates objects of distress, and these must necessarily go on increasing in a geometrical ratio.
No man in his sober senses would wish for any sudden alteration of the present plan. The great object should be to teach the labouring classes that they must themselves provide for those casualties to which they are exposed from occasional variations in the demand for particular manufactured goods, and which should not be the subject of legislation. A man’s wages should, and would on a really good system, be sufficient not only to maintain himself and family when he is in full work, but also to enable him to lay up a provision in a Savings Bank for those extraordinary calls which you mention.
To relieve the poor by any extended exercise of private charity would hardly be less objectionable than the evil of which we now complain. Your objection to this tax, or any of the taxes being paid by voluntary contribution, is most sound,—the selfish would pay nothing, and the whole burden would fall on the generous and humane. Great evils however result from the idea which the Poor Laws inculcate that the poor have a right to relief. In the British Review which I send you I think you will find a good article on this subject.
I have gone through my friend Mill’s book “The History of India.” It is not a mere dry detail of facts, but contains ample discussions on the most important points, which refer not only to the Government of India, but to the Government of every other country. His observations on Legislation, on Law, and on the rules of Evidence, are very interesting, and he shews most triumphantly, I think, that the administration of Justice on which so much of the happiness of every people depends, is still very deficient in these countries which are considered the most civilized in Europe. I do not see what plausible objections can be made to him. Hastings’ Trial, Mr. Fox’s and Mr. Pitt’s India bills give him very good opportunities for entering into these discussions. He endeavours to refute the prevailing opinion that the Hindus are now, or ever have been a highly civilized people, and enters very fully into an examination of the state of their religious opinions, their customs, their laws, their literature, and their knowledge of the arts and sciences, with a view to prove that they have never made more than the first steps in refinement and civilization. I am exceedingly pleased with the work,— it is replete with entertainment and instruction, and cannot fail to be acknowledged as a proof of great talents in the author. By special favour I had it before the maps and indexes were completed, and therefore several weeks before it was published. Mrs. Ricardo joins with me in kind regards to you and Mrs. Trower.
Very sincerely Yours