272.: ricardo to trower1[Reply to 268.—Answered by 276] - 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 268.—Answered by 276]
Gatcomb Park 18th. Septr. 1818
My dear Trower
Our third Assizes this year, as they may without much inaccuracy be called, commenced on the 31 Aug., and on that day I had again to go through all the ceremonies of meeting the Judges, attending them to the Court, and then to the Cathedral, all which had been so needlessly gone through on the former occasion; but here my active services ended, for I had received the night before such an account of the alarming illness of one of my brothers, whom I believe you do not know, and of his wish to see me, that I was anxious to hurry to London as soon as my presence could be dispensed with. Nothing could be more humane and considerate than the Judges behaviour to me;—they no sooner knew how I was circumstanced than they insisted on my leaving Glocester immediately. I accepted their indulgence, and on my arrival in London found my brother in a less alarming state than I expected to find him. I passed a fortnight from home, and am but just returned. I am happy to say that my brother’s health improved daily while I was in London, and I left him with a fair prospect of complete recovery. It is to this interruption that you are to attribute my long silence after the receipt of your kind letter.
I am glad to hear that you are pleased with the review of my book in the Edinburgh Review. It gives me great satisfaction, and principally because the writer (Mr MCullock) appears to have well understood me, and to have explained my doctrines with great clearness and perspicuity. I am glad too to have had your observations on the review, for you have called my attention to the inaccuracy of the reviewer in a passage which had not before been noticed by me. In page 68 he has in the first quotation you make, used the word price instead of the word value; substitute the latter word and the whole is consistent, though perhaps not quite satisfactory, for it supposes my definition of value to be correct, which may by many be disputed. In the next page he again speaks of real price as synonymous with real value, but his meaning is obvious. The word price I think should be confined wholly to the value of commodities estimated in money, and money only. If so confined, a commodity may rise in real value without rising in price. If more labour should be required than before to work the mines, and to manufacture shoes, it is possible that shoes may continue unaltered in price, but both the shoes, and gold (or money) will have risen in value. He is very able on the subject of rent, but if he answers the objections of any Review, it cannot be the Quarterly, for the work has not been noticed by it. In America I should think that there was no land for which a rent was not paid, but that is to be attributed to their particular institutions. The Government is proprietor of all uncultivated lands in the interior of the country, which it is ready to sell, and daily sells, at the moderate price at 2 dollars per acre. Rent then must amount in every part of America to the interest which 2 dollars would make, pr. acre, at the least; but this fact makes no difference in the principle, as you seem to be fully aware.
“The Fellow of The University of Oxford” is Mr. West, a barrister. His pamphlet was ingenious, and he had a glimpse of the true doctrine of rent and profits. I am acquainted with him. He has I believe given up the study of Polit. Economy.
Mr. Mill has been staying a fortnight with me—he returned to London a day before I went there. He is very much pleased with the review—he thinks it very well done.
Both he, and I, I observe, have mistaken the extent of your admission respecting the House of Commons. You admit that there should be an effectual check on the Government in the people, but you think that as that House is at present constituted it practically and in effect affords such a check, because it feels the force of public opinion. We are of opinion with you that the force of public opinion is felt, and strongly felt in Parliament, but not in consequence of its good constitution, but in spite of the badness of it. The Parliament itself is controuled by public opinion as manifested through the means of the Press, and therefore it is the Press which is the real check on our Government. The Public opinion and p[opular] force is irresistible, and it is of this both the monarchy and the oligarchy stand in awe, and to it we are indebted for all the liberty we enjoy. Instead of having this check for the people out of parliament,—would it not be better to have it constitutionally exerted within it—would it not be more efficacious there as an instrument of good Government? It would in that case be powerful in correcting abuses on which the fear of insurrection does not now operate. As Parliament is at present constituted can we reasonably expect any important improvements in the law, while there is such a phalanx of interested men who have the power to oppose them? Why is not a general inclosure bill passed? because the lawyers interest is opposed to the general interest. Why are there so many obstacles to the transfer of landed property? Why is justice so tardy, and its expences so great? and a thousand more whys,—all for the same reason. No, my friend, Parliament is no check for the people, but happily is yet checked by the people, whose voice and power cannot be wholly stifled while the press is tolerably free. You talk of your preference to a mixed Government, over that of a republican. I have no objection to the former provided it be administered for the happiness of the many, and not for the benefit of the few. I know of no security under any form of Government for the happiness of the people, but that the people themselves, through the means of their representatives, should have a preponderating voice. I rejoice that you are not one of those who have an antipathy to election by ballot, for of all those, who object to that mode of election I have never heard any solid reasons for their objection:— they are all to be resolved to an antipathy, for which they can give no account.
Mill was exceedingly pleased with the view of some parts of our County. We performed a little tour to some estates which I have at 27 miles distance from home, and then we went to Hereford, and surveyed the beautiful country about the cities of Hereford and Ross. I think you have been in those places.
Pray remember us all most kindly to Mrs. Trower and believe me very sincerely
I believe a Serjeant only can open the Court, and no serjeant accompanies the Judges in this Circuit.