297.: mill to ricardo1[Reply to 296.—Answered by 298] - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
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.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
mill to ricardo
[Reply to 296.—Answered by 298]
Westr. 24th. Decr. 1818
My Dear Sir
I have just read and dispatched your letter to Trower, and as I shall not have it by me to refresh my memory hereafter, I will put down while I have them, the remarks which occurred to me. I think you have well selected the two points upon which the whole of his reasoning—or rather not his reasoning, but his loose talk—decidedly turns: 1st. That any reform which shall be more than a name, would destroy the monarchy, and aristocracy; 2dly. that this would destroy the balance. These are not only the two points upon which his letter exclusively hinges, but it is the only thing specific upon which the talk and writing of all the opponents of reform almost exclusively hinges. For, as you very justly observe: the whigs will come to nothing specific; they double and wind, and run the course of mere hypocrites. They uniformly do, as you have found out, that your friend Malthus does; in words say they are for reform; but when you force them to explain themselves, very distinctly shew that they are for no reform at all. I like Trower’s explicitness much better; and should sooner hope to make a convert of him, because he is sincere.
Your remarks upon these two cardinal points are excellent. On the first, it is just the proper answer to say, that it is substituting the means for the end; in fact, it is neither more, nor less than laying it down as proper to sacrifice the end to the means: than which a greater contradiction of reason, it is altogether impossible to conceive. This view of the question we must never weary in holding up. Monarchy, and aristocracy, they say, are good—Why? as means to good government. And then they add—dread to seek for the means of good government because you will destroy monarchy and aristocracy! You see the good government is only pretext! the monarchy and aristocracy are the end; because they reckon themselves either partners in the variegated despot, or allied to him, and likely to share in his favours.
As for the second of these points, the balance; the utter nothingness of that you see through so completely, that you are always able by a few words, to make it transparent to every body. But the odd thing is, that though refuted, they never fail to repeat. You will find, in as many letters as Mr. Trower writes to you, and in as many discourses as any of the rest of them holds with you, when you shew them undeniably that nothing less than a reform to such and such an extent can afford any security for good government, can prevent the many from being the slaves of the few; they only turn round upon you, and tell you that you will destroy the balance, or that you will destroy the monarchy and aristocracy.
Still these discussions of ours do a great deal of good. The men with whom we hold them are men of influence. If we do not convert, we stagger them, and make them much less audacious, and by consequence much less successful preachers of bad doctrines. I could tell you several curious, and upon the whole satisfactory discussions, I have had, since I came to town, if I had room for it.
I am full of contempt for these notes of Say. Murray sent me the book immediately; and you may say to him, when you write, that I am much obliged to him. There is not one of your doctrines, that he has seized, or perceives the force of in any degree. Think of his saying, in, I believe, the very first of his notes, that you have assuredly in the text committed a great error, because in talking of exchangeable value, you have not included profits of stock and rent, as constituent parts. This is to declare, as plainly as words can speak, that the man knows not in the smallest degree what your book is about. As far as I have yet gone (for I dare say I shall be tempted to read the whole of the translation) all his notes appear to be of the same stamp. They sink the man in my estimation to a very inferior level. Do you mean to print them at the end? Or do you think them worthy of any notice?
I am sorry you are to be so long in coming to town—and I am sorry the wedding is to be so soon. A little delay might have been salutary. But I am strongly inclined to hope the best. I have formed a good opinion of both the brothers — and think that good sense, and reverence for you may work a radical reform, even where you are most apprehensive.— Your long delay in the country renders it more imperative upon you to send me papers—papers: written, and to be written. I long to see your answer to Torrens. It ought to be in next months magazine. I think I said to you, that Macculloch’s answer did not please me. —Your stay in the country will be favourable, I hope, to writing.
I only intended to begin my letter to you—and lo! I have gone on, till it is almost completed. I had as well finish now —and when I have finished, it had as well go. Yes—I am getting better, though slowly—but I am sure your brother is the doctor for me, and I am going to dine with him by way of fee—is not that handsome in me? I had a call from Mr. Ralph to day, but unluckily was out, walking. You say, in your letter to Trower, that Malthus’s book will not be out till the end of next year. What is the meaning of that? Why, it is advertized as now in the press. —I was affected almost to tears upon reading poor Romilly’s will in the Morn. Chron. of today.